Hello Brooklyn: New York Islanders Announce Move to Barclays Center

Daniel Friedman@DFriedmanNHLCorrespondent IOctober 24, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 24: New York Islanders owner Charles Wang announces the team's move to the Barclays in 2015 at a press conference at the Barclays Center on October 24, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

New York Islanders owner Charles Wang announced this afternoon that the franchise has reached a 25-year agreement to play at the Barclays Center, starting with the commencement of the 2015-2016 NHL regular season. 

Also on the guest list for today's press conference were Barclays Center majority owner Bruce Ratner, Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and New York Islanders GM Garth Snow. 

During the press conference, it was confirmed that Wang did in fact receive several offers to relocate the Islanders to other cities, including Quebec City, and that he turned down every one of those offers.

This is a man who's always stated that his goal was to keep the Isles in the area. He is clearly backing up those words with actions.

In not shipping this team away, like we've seen other owners do in professional sports and like we saw with the once-upon-a-time Atlanta Thrashers, Charles Wang has proven himself to be true to his word.

When pressed with the question of whether or not he'd explore the prospect of breaking the Nassau Coliseum lease, Wang responded, " [I have] said consistently, we will honor our lease." However, he also did not rule out that, "anything can happen," which just has to leave you wondering what his next move might be. 

One thing's for certain: It won't be a move out of New York. 

MSG's Stan Fischler inquired about the seating configuration and was told that, currently, the Barclays Center could hold 14,500 for hockey.  There is also talk of adding about 500-or-so in the near future. 

Considering that the Isles have averaged just north of 13,000 customers per-night at Nassau Coliseum, I don't think that seating capacity (or an apparent lack thereof) is too much of a concern and, as evidenced by the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre (15,004), there are ways to make it work. 

For Islanders fans, especially the ones who've been with this team since day one back in 1972, this is absolutely a day of mixed emotions.

On the one hand, there's no longer a worry of the franchise moving to Kansas City, Quebec City, Seattle, or anywhere else. They're staying put in New York and that should be something to take comfort and relief in knowing. 

On the other hand, what once was will no longer be. The Isles were the pride of Long Island, especially during the dynastic years of the 1980's, and the bond between the team and Nassau County has undoubtedly been severed. 

Having said that, the move isn't necessarily that drastic. 

The fact of the matter is that the New York Islanders are moving 30 miles west of their current location, still within geographic Long Island.

While this may technically be labeled a "relocation," I'd hardly call it one. 

Better still, the Islanders will keep their name and logo, something that was strongly requested at the behest of the NHL and, given the abundance of history and tradition surrounding this team, something that simply had to remain untouched. 

For the Islanders, there are numerous positives, many of which will have an immediate impact. 

To say it's been difficult for GM Garth Snow to reel in big-time free agents would be an understatement. He might as well have been a car salesman with only scooters to sell. 

The introduction of a brand-new state-of-the-art facility is an instant game-changer.

The 25-year commitment to playing in that building gives the Isles something they have not had in years; stability. Snow has far more ammo than ever in terms of his ability to tailor this roster and acquire top-flight talent. 

Simply put, the Islanders can now do what they couldn't before.

And that is to actually compete in this league. The move to Barclays will breathe a rush of new life into this franchise, one that had been dying a slow and relatively painful death. 

As far as Nassau County is concerned, truth be told, they deserve to lose the New York Islanders.

For the last decade, the local governments of both the County and Town of Hempstead have shown little appreciation or interest in the region's only professional sports franchise.

Charles Wang was as patient as you could possibly ask the man to be, trying to engineer solution after solution, proposal after proposal. He tried private funding and was rejected, then tried public funding and was, of course, rejected again.

In line with his intentions to keep the team in New York, a move to Brooklyn was his only card left to play. I knew as early as last summer that, in all likelihood, this day was going to come.

With the opening of the Barclays Center, there was no reason for the Islanders to move anywhere else. Everything they'd been looking for could be found right on top of the Atlantic Terminal. 

I understand that many Islanders fans have a special connection to the Coliseum and countless memories.  In fact, I am one of them.

The harsh reality is that's not something which will simply go away or be easily shrugged off.

I'll never forget the first Islanders game I ever went to, when I didn't know the difference between the icing rule and the kind you'd put on a cake. I remember how much fun it was and how I talked nonstop about some guy named "Ziggy" (Palffy) for the next ten days at school. 

Let's remember one thing, though.

Whether it was going to be torn down for a new one to be built in its stead or because the Islanders were going to leave, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum wasn't going to last much longer. We were going to have to say our goodbyes one way or the other. 

The move to Brooklyn does begin a new chapter in this franchise's storied history, but this team is still, and will always be, the New York Islanders.

They are still here.

Even if they are now a train ride or a highway commute further, they are still here. 

If Yankees, Jets and Giants fans from Long Island and the boroughs can venture out to the Bronx and New Jersey, Isles rooters can certainly find a way to get to Brooklyn.

If anything, the fact that the Barclays Center is situated right on top of an LIRR station makes it easier for fans to attend Islander home games. 

This is a good day, even if it does engender mixed emotions. Embrace the change, because starting today, the New York Islanders have officially arrived. 

Comments are welcome.

Follow Daniel Friedman on Twitter @DFriedmanNHL


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