Gary Bettman Misses the Point with Islanders Relocation Comments

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (cr: VancityAllie@flickr)

Recently, Gary Bettman made a statement regarding the New York Islanders and a possible move to Brooklyn. Bettman stated that it would be hard for the fan base in Long Island and Queens to reach the team at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Living in Brooklyn and Queens could have its many downfalls. Traffic, sparse parking, and tightly packed spaces can make for some testy moments, but the MTA is just one perk that the five boroughs have to offer. For those that despise traveling by car for the aforementioned reasons, the MTA provides its services for $2.25 and one could literally reach most points in the five boroughs if they take the right combination of trains.

On the other hand, Long Island does not have an overly developed public transportation system that can be found in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan, or the Bronx. Instead, commuters and residents resort to the LIRR. While it may be a tad expensive to travel using the LIRR, the train departure and arrival times are on point for the most part and the ride is very comfortable.

If Gary Bettman truly believes that it will be hard for the Long Island and Queens natives to access the Isles in Brooklyn, then this article will attempt to dissuade that notion. Here are a couple of reasons as to why Brooklyn can be a viable option to reach in terms of transportation:

2.) MTA (Metro Transit Authority) – Ah, the MTA. For $2.25, you can get delays due to train traffic, rail-work, and other things. Even though the MTA has its bad moments (Blizzard of 2010), it also serves as a major source of transportation in the five boroughs. People use the buses and trains around them to get to work each day and the MTA would be a good source of transportation for fans in Queens that don’t want to shell out the extra cash for the LIRR.

The area around the Barclays Center is located near one of New York’s major MTA hubs. There are several different trains that can get one from Queens to Brooklyn (Atlantic-Pacific Avenue) in about an hour. Some trains would arguably take a bit longer, but one would simply have to plan ahead if they wanted to make it to the game on time. Countless Rangers fans take the MTA from Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island to get to Madison Square Garden and few complain about travel time as they are already used to the routine.

Downtown Brooklyn is not as hard to reach as Bettman might make it seem. As previously mentioned, fans would just have to plan ahead of time in order to make it to the game in a timely fashion. Even though the MTA might have many downfalls, it has been servicing countless people for decades and is a fairly inexpensive way to travel around the five boroughs.

There are currently 9 lines (2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, Q, & R) that will arrive at the stop nearest to the Barclays Center. The Q, R, and N all run through various parts of Queens and could be used to get to the downtown Brooklyn/arena area without transfer. The F line is also available in Queens and will get an individual to downtown Brooklyn, but the F-train does not stop near the arena. Taking the F-train could save a traveler a bit of time as the line runs express through Queens, but the walk from the train-stop in Brooklyn to the arena could take several minutes.

Altogether, there are 4 different lines that run from Queens to the arena area in Brooklyn and the MTA would save Queens’ travelers about $4.25 ($8.75 Round-trip on LIRR, $4.50 Round-trip on MTA) for those that don’t want to spend their money on a LIRR ticket. Those that want to save their the money will realize that they are giving up certain services and will experience longer travel times when taking the MTA, but the mode of transportation will get people to the arena nonetheless.

hockey at the Barclays Center2.) LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) – As a Stony Brook University undergrad, I quickly had to learn the ropes of the LIRR. Commuting from Brooklyn (Southern tip) to Long Island was arduous to say the least, but the location of the Barclays Center makes it extremely accessible to commuters. Traveling from Stony Brook to Jamaica would take about 1.5 hours and another additional 20 minutes from Jamaica to the Atlantic-Pacific Avenue stop near East New York. In total, it would take about 2 hours (possibly more) for Suffolk residents to make the trip to Brooklyn to see their beloved team.

Traveling two hours by train in one direction to see your favorite team would be the ultimate demonstration of support and quite inconvenient for some, but the LIRR would offer people a chance to relax and not have to worry about driving long distances after the game is completed. Gas money and parking fees would be neutralized by the amount that one would have to spend on a round-trip LIRR ticket (close to $20 if traveling from parts of Suffolk) and one would not have to worry about having a few drinks at the venue and then driving home after the game.

Yes, it would be inconvenient for some to devote that much time to traveling by train, but it wouldn’t be hard for fans in Long Island to reach the Barclays Center. Time management would definitely factor into fans’ decisions, but the LIRR has a plethora of stations and locations that can get travelers from their point in Long Island (Nassau or Suffolk) to downtown Brooklyn. If Rangers fans from Nassau and Suffolk have been doing it, then Islanders fans will probably follow in that same fashion. It would take an individual the same amount of time to get to MSG from Long Island as it would to get to the Barclays Center from the same point of departure. One might save some time if they find a train that leaves to their destination (MSG or Barclays Center) directly, but the difference in the time of arrival would be minuscule.

Would it take a while to get to the Barclays Center from certain points in Long Island/Queens? Yes. However, it would not be hard to reach as there are loads of LIRR stations throughout Nassau and Suffolk County that can bring fans to the arena in about 2 hours. If Rangers fans have been taking the commute to MSG from Long Island, so can Islanders fans as the commute would be virtually the same.

Should Brooklyn Still Be An Option?

In short, yes, Brooklyn should still be an option for the New York Islanders if they cannot find a suitor in Nassau or Suffolk County. The Barclays Center will be a state of the art arena and will be located on top of one of New York’s major transit hubs. The area around the arena has plenty of shopping outlets, restaurants, fast food services, and other forms of entertainment.

The only question mark that is attached to the arena is its sight-lines for hockey. Nassau Coliseum has some very good sight-lines for hockey, but an arena that was originally built for a basketball team might not be optimal for hockey games.

The Islanders will play the New Jersey Devils in an exhibition game at the Barclays Center before the 2012-2013 NHL season begins and many questions about the arena’s ability to host hockey games will be answered. Even if the arena has a small capacity for hockey games (14,000), the venue could always be changed to cater to a bigger crowd.

If Bettman is concerned that the Islanders will lose their fans if they move to Brooklyn, then that is fair game, but the old saying of “if you build it, they will come” rings true in this situation. The Islanders could gain some new fans in Brooklyn just like the Nets could gain new fans when they move to the Barclays Center. There are many Rangers, Devils, and Sabres fans in the greater New York area, but the Barclays center would be a perfect location for a sports franchise as it is located in the heart of a center of commerce.

Anatoliy Metter

Anatoliy Metter

Toli covers all things related to the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Anyone looking to talk hockey or sports can feel free to contact him on Facebook by searching/messaging Toli Metter and on twitter by searching @ToliMetterTHW.
Anatoliy Metter
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12 Comments

  1. Think2wice says:

    “There are currently 9 lines (2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, Q, & R) that will arrive at the stop nearest to the Barclays Center.”

    Also the nearby A/C station at Lafayette Ave and G station at Fulton St. The G train is accessible to Long Island City, Sunnyside, Steinway, and Astoria and the A/C trains is accessible to most of south-eastern Queens and the Rockaways.

  2. What I think some people forget is that there is a bunch of us Jersey folks who were kids in the 80’s, became Isles fans and stuck around when the Devils came to town.  Moving to Brooklyn would allow me to see a heck of lot more games then going out to LI.  That being said, they should stay and get a better deal.

  3. Great column–and it would be a dream for the Isles to stay in the NY area, let alone the wonderful Barclays Center–but the logistics for LI fans would not as easy as you would make it out to be. 

    The MTA would have to commit to providing more trains for game nights, particularly as the last outgoing train at the Atlantic Terminal on weekdays is before midnight for many LIRR lines, and in some cases well before 11 pm (!). Plus, in order to make the shoot-around for as weekday game (6:20-6:40ish), you’d have to leave your home in Nassau or western Suffolk sometimes almost by 5 pm–which is impossible and very difficult for folks that work til 5 or 5:30 or for those with families whose children may have after-school sports or activities that could abut the time to leave. Check out some times on the LIRR site, particularly for towns in eastern or northeastern Nassau and western Suffolk–the logistics are tough. You can’t tout the arena as easy to get to and great for hanging out afterwards when one leg to the stadium can require a time commitment 2-3X the time it takes to drive to Uniondale, a potential total time commitment of 7 hours (leave at 5 to drive to the station; catch a 10:30 train; arrive in your driveway by 11:45) and that you’d have to bolt the arena to catch a 10:30 pm train without enjoying the arena’s surrounding bar scene.

    These problems can be rectified–hell, the LI Nets fans (like me) have to deal with these concerns already–but I have to say that I’d have little confidence in putting my faith in the MTA and LIRR for beefing up Atlantic Trains to so many lines. Thanks for the coverage, and I hope these problems can be addressed!  Although I still hold out hope (stupidly) that the TOH dolts do something to rezone the Hub to economic viability so that Barclays is, at most, a temp option as a Nassau arena is done…

    • Anatoliy Metter says:

      Thanks for the comment and the read, much appreciated! However, as I’ve said before, travel time to MSG is the same on the LIRR, regardless of where you’re traveling from. If Rangers fans have been taking these trips, so can Islanders fans. Rangers fans have to deal with much the same leaving from MSG to get back home by midnight. Time management would be huge in this situation, but I completely see where you’re coming from. Thanks for the comment, I truly do hope we stay in the NY area.

  4. Steve Abramowski says:

    “There are many Rangers, Devils, and Sabres fans in the greater New York area” 
    One problem with this quote… there’s not many Sabres fans in the greater New York area. Buffalo is a seven hour drive from NYC, at the opposite side of the state, and practically in a different region of the country (located much closer to cities like Toronto, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Detroit). Anyone who looks at a map can tell you that New York is a pretty large state, where NYC is in a narrow corner where all of New Jersey and Connecticut are closer to it than the majority of New York State. Most people in NYC probably think of Buffalo as some far away town in the tundra as it is quite a distance away. Know your geography before you lump Buffalo in with NYC… two cities that are far apart not only in distance, but in culture, accent, economics, etc.

    • Anatoliy Metter says:

      I def. know my geography. Like I said, I spent quite a few years in Stony Brook University and came across a large number of people that were Sabres fans (some from upstate, some even from Long Island). I’ve even come across several Sabres fans here in Brooklyn. I never said or mentioned that Buffalo was close to NYC, I merely mentioned that I’ve run into more than a handful of Sabres fans in the New York area and more than I’d ever expect to be in Long Island.

      • Steve Abramowski says:

        My apologies then.  A lot of people tend to think of Buffalo as part of the NYC region from afar. However, I will say that Buffalo fans in college towns across NYS are as common as NYC sports fans at WNY colleges in Buffalo, Fredonia, Brockport, etc. I wouldn’t particularly say we have many NYC fans here, but we have some due to college students and transplants, as I’m sure is the same case on the other end of the state. Buffalo, also, is a town experiencing an economic diaspora, so you will find a decent amount of Buffalo fans in many cities across the country, however, I wouldn’t use the term “many” regarding Buffalo fans anywhere outside of WNY, CNY, and Southern Ontario, because there are probably hundreds of other fans of a regional term per one Buffalo fan.

  5. In my opinion, it is more about losing an established fan base. What you want is to build a season ticket base. I think that the amount of new season ticket holders from Brooklyn/NYC will be outpaced by Long Island fans that will not renew. Will we go to some games? Sure. But i know i wont be getting season tickets. There is a huge fan base on LI waiting for a reason to have faith in this organization. Moving to an arena built for basketball is not the answer. The Islanders need their OWN home…..on Long Island.

    • Anatoliy Metter says:

      I agree with you Dbelcher22. I feel that all resources should be exhausted on Long Island before Brooklyn is seriously considered. With Steve Levy gone as Suffolk County exec, there hasn’t been any talk about the Isles going to Suffolk. Moving the team to Brooklyn would probably see a loss of season ticket sales, but the Isles need to do one thing for the arena talk to be taken to the next level, and that is to have a winning season. As long as we win we have a better shot at staying on Long Island, more people will take us seriously if we show improvement over the next two years.

  6. They would have to change their name to the Brooklyn Islanders. When u move to Brooklyn, u change the name. Queens likes associating with New York more than Queens. 

    But put a third baseball team in brooklyn: queens vs bronx vs brooklyn
    Mahnhattan/Bronx/Queens/Harlem Knicks Vs Brooklyn Nets 

  7. Will be a lot harder for Queens and Long Island fans if the team moves to Kansas City or Quebec :)

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