NEW YORK — With their team playing in the Eastern Conference semifinals, New York Islanders fans are back in Brooklyn for the first time in more than two months. And since it means they’re doing well in the Stanley Cup playoffs, they’re happy to be back.
“I prefer the Coliseum but I’d rather be here than at home watching someone else play (on TV),” said Ron Maginniss from West Islip.
The Islanders began splitting their home games this season between the Barclays Center, where they began playing in 2015, and the Nassau Coliseum, their home for the franchise’s first 43 years,
There were 21 games at the renovated Long Island arena, and 20 in Brooklyn. Under an agreement with the NHL, their home games in the first round of the playoffs were held at the Coliseum, with home games in subsequent rounds to be back at Barclays Center.
Winning Makes the Commute Tolerable
So, after the Islanders swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening series to reach the second round for the just the second time since 1993, fans found themselves back in Brooklyn on Friday night for the first time since Feb, 16. And while most of the fanbase is concentrated on Long Island and doesn’t like travelling to Brooklyn for games, the team’s pursuit of its first Stanley Cup championship since winning four straight from 1980-83 is trumping their inconvenience,
“I couldn’t be more happy,” said Mike Barnao from Sayville. “I don’t care where they play. I just want them to win the Cup.”
Huntington resident Jimmy Rowland, a season-ticket holder, said he, too, prefers the Coliseum, but added: “It’s fine, Brooklyn is part of Long Island, it’s just the front part. We bring the energy for here, too. The team makes the energy. They had a good record here this year. Why do you think that happened? Because they want to win.”
The Islanders had similar success at both arenas, going 12-6-2 at Barclays Center and 12-7-2 at the Coliseum. They won both games on Long Island in the first round, before dropping the East semifinal opener against the Carolina Hurricanes 1-0 in overtime.
“I don’t think any Islanders fans are thrilled about (the team) having to play in the Barclays Center instead of Nassau Coliseum,” said Nick Hirshon, a season-ticket holder from Forest Hills and author of the book ‘We Want Fishsticks: The Bizarre and Infamous Rebranding of the New York Islanders.’ “I think most fans are kind of past the point of complaining about it, and are just happy that we’re in the second round. And that’s just kind of thrilling and more about who we’re playing than where we’re playing right now.”
Barclays Center Not Built for Hockey
Most Islanders fans never fully accepted the team’s move to Brooklyn. They complained about the bad views and many obstructed seats at the arena, which was built for the Brooklyn Nets, and clamoured for the team’s return to the Coliseum in Uniondale, 30 miles and seemingly a world away.
They got their wish with a unique arrangement as the NHL decided to split up the home games between the two very different venues. The arrangement is expected to remain in place until the Islanders’ new arena at Belmont Park, adjacent to the horse racing track, is ready for the 2021-22 season. Construction isn’t slated to begin until May.
Some fans who live in New York are torn between nostalgia for the old arena and the closer proximity to Brooklyn.
“Barclays is a lot more convenient, so this is great,” said Howard Ross, who grew up in Nassau County but now lives in Manhattan. “I drive out to the Coliseum for games, too. I went to about eight games out there and both games against Pittsburgh. I’ll go anywhere to watch them play in the playoffs, even Madison Square Garden if they had to play there.”
Freelance writer Denis P. Gorman contributed to this report.
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Vin A. Cherwoo, The Associated Press