It is 3:30 on a Thursday afternoon in the month of October. Ten-year-old Johnny sits in the office of his elementary school watching the big yellow school buses parade out of the parking lot. On a normal Thursday afternoon, Johnny would be seated on one of those buses to take the fifteen-minute voyage home. However, today is not your normal Thursday afternoon. Johnny is waiting for his mom and dad to pick him up so they can go directly to the train station. Where are they headed you ask? Well the easy answer is to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to see the New York Islanders take on the Nashville Predators. To Johnny this is much more than a trip to see a hockey game. The Islanders are the most important thing in this little boy’s life and he has been waiting a long time (in the eyes of a ten-year-old) to see the team in person. Even at his young age, Johnny is aware how difficult it was for his parents to put aside the time and money to take him to see his beloved Isles. When his dad bought the tickets, he explained that he could not get close seats but they would get there nice and early so Johnny could go down to the rink and watch the blue and orange warm up. After hearing about this, Johnny’s excitement was focused more on the pregame instead of the actual game.
Johnny and his parents arrive to the Barclays just before they start letting people into the arena. He stands there in his blue and orange number 91 jersey waiting anxiously. He can already picture his idols such as John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, and Brock Nelson skating around taking shots. Maybe if he were lucky, one of them would toss a puck his way. Once the gates open, Johnny’s parents take him directly toward the ice. He can feel the air cool a little bit as he imagines the sound of skates against the icy surface. In this little boy’s mind, he was about to enter paradise.
As the family is making their way down to ice level for warm-ups, a man in a Barclays Center uniform stops them. Johnny’s dad talks to the man privately for a few minutes. He cannot hear what his dad is saying but the boy can sense that something is terribly wrong. Johnny’s dad hesitantly makes his way back to his young boy. He crouches down and explains that they are no longer allowed to go down and watch the team warm-up. Apparently the rules had changed without his knowledge when the Isles moved to the new arena. The only people who are allowed to watch the warm-ups close up, besides for those with lower bowl seats, are a season ticket holders. At that moment, it is as if the wind had been taken out of the ten-year-old’s chest. He knew there was nothing his dad could do but that did not take away the feelings of disappointment. A small tear goes down the boy’s cheek as his mother takes his hand and says “come on Johnny, I’ll get you a soda before we find our seats”.
The Unpleasant Truth
Now Johnny might be a fictional character in some ways but in others he is very real. There are so many young children in his situation that will be unable to view warm-ups from ice level at the Barclays Center this season. Many older hockey fans can agree that the experience of viewing their favorite team up close for the first time is a memory they will never forget. Brett Yormark’s policy only allowing 91 season ticket holders watch warm-ups from ice level not only prevents the young or new fan from this experience, it is also just straight-up offensive.
There truly are no other fans in the world of sports more passionate than hockey fans. No matter how their team is performing, they are their showing their support in every way possible. Unfortunately most die-hard hockey fans cannot demonstrate their admiration and loyalty threw purchasing season tickets. Although reasonable and possible for some, committing that much money towards going to watch your beloved hockey team play live forty-one times a year is just plain illogical and sometimes impossible. This does not mean a non-season ticket holder loves his or her team any less than a season ticket holder. It simply means that this person has other financial commitments that take precedent over going to a lot of hockey games. This reality does not give Brett Yormark the right to punish these fans when they can put enough money and time aside to attend a game once in a while. Punish may seem like an overdramatic term but it is appropriate. Yormark is making a statement that he only aims to please those of us who are willing to throw the most money in his direction and does not care about the happiness of the loyal Islanders fan base as a whole.
Immediate Change Necessary
The relationship between the Barclays Center and the Islander faithful has been a rocky one so far. Everything from the goal horn to the overall appearance of the arena has made Isles fans annoyed and angry. Some actions made by Yormark and the Barclays can be seen as an attempt to add something new to the New York Islanders and are understandable. Unfortunately, the policy regarding pregame warm-ups does not fall under that category. Yormark must remove this “make as much money as possible” mindset from his noggin and remember that without support from the fans, this Islanders in Brooklyn experiment will not last very long. Change to this policy must occur immediately!
John Gove is an elementary school educator who writes about hockey in his spare team. Over the past five years, John has covered the game at various levels. Now, he exclusively focuses his coverage on prospects and the developmental leagues.