The Barclays Center seems to be bad luck for the Islanders, whose rocky ride in Brooklyn has been well documented since October 9, 2015. They didn’t get off to a good start at their new arena, losing 3-2 to the Blackhawks in overtime.
In the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Islanders beat the Panthers for the franchise’s first series win since 1993. They went on to face the Lightning for the first time since 2004. However, reality began to seep in as they won the first game of the Eastern Conference semifinal series, but ended up being eliminated by the Lightning in five games.
The Islanders were so close last season. They had a pretty good second half, winning their last six games to finish in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, but they were shy of the postseason by just one point. The Leafs clinched the second wild card spot on the second to last day of the season.
The Islanders have pretty much been cursed with low attendance figures. They haven’t drawn a large amount of fans since their dynasty years from 1980 to 1983. That’s not going to change unless if management comes up with creative ideas to improve the overall fan experience in Brooklyn.
Here are three reasons why the Islanders should return to Long Island.
1. Barclays Center’s Defenseless Ice
The commute to the Barclays Center might be a pain for Long Island natives, but the sub-par ice remains a major issue. Islanders ownership has discussed this issue from time to time, but it seems like there’s no plausible solution in the foreseeable future because the ice is defenseless.
It’s not just the Islanders faithful who criticize the ice, but also the players, who have brought up the issue from time to time. After all, players need to be safe to avoid suffering potential injuries.
Islanders captain John Tavares sustained a season-ending hamstring injury on March 31. Tavares skated for the first time at Barclays Center in the Islanders’ preseason game against the Flyers on September 20. He has described the ice as soft, telling Steven Marcus of Newsday: “It’s obvious we’re not playing in a traditional rink that was built for hockey…They’ve done a lot of work just to make it playable for us over the last couple of years, just trying to make the conditions as best as possible with what you can do.”
After scoring the game-winning shootout goal, Kyle Okposo blasted the ice conditions at Barclays Center. Okposo told Luke Fox of Sportsnet: “Awful…Can’t have it like that. It’s got to change. It’s got to be better than that.”
The Barclays Center was built for basketball and concerts, not hockey.
2. Commuter Issues
The commute for the Islanders faithful is a major issue due to traffic. Not only is the commute to the Barclays Center time consuming, the cost of gas and/or train tickets is expensive. A round trip to Brooklyn via train is $20 per person. Moreover, it costs $15 for each person to park their car.
In addition, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) provides unreliable service for commuters, despite adding extra trains and express trains to Babylon and Ronkonkoma last year.
Something needs to be done about commute times and traffic concerns. Heading to the Barclays Center is alright, but the car or train ride home is a common complaint among Islanders fans.
3. Low Attendance at Barclays Center
Aside from the hardcore fans in the Blue and Orange Army, the Islanders struggle to attract a lot of fans to their games. For the past two seasons, the Islanders ranked 28th in NHL attendance. They’re not dead last, but with a low amount of fans at the home games, it’s not a good idea for the team to stay in Brooklyn for the long run.
The league approved an Islanders vs. Flyers preseason game on September 17. The game was a huge success, drawing a plethora of eager fans ready to cheer on the Orange and Blue in their traditional home. Islanders greats Billy Smith, Bob Nystrom and Clark Gillies dropped the ceremonial first puck. It was a game to remember for the fans and players alike.
The Islanders faithful often complain about not having enough time after work to commute or simply not wanting to sit in an awful seat with an obstructed view. Whatever the objection may be, more fans are opting to stay home and watch the games on TV. This is good for the TV ratings, but not so much towards the team’s finances.
When all is said and done, the Islanders should return to Long Island as an attempt to draw more fans to their games.
Ana Kieu is a versatile reporter who has a deep knowledge of sports. She grew up as a big sports fan and graduated from San Jose State University in 2015. She got her start as a San Jose Sharks beat reporter for Inside Hockey and has moved on to other media outlets such as Sports Radio Service, SB Nation and USA TODAY Sports Media Group.