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New York Islanders Moving to Brooklyn: A Bittersweet Day for Islander Fans

In Life, Sports on October 25, 2012 at 11:13 am

The New York Islanders have been part of the landscape of Long Island for my entire life.  And though there had been rumors of their departure from Long Island floating around for several years, it really hit home yesterday when the Islanders announced that they would be moving to Brooklyn once their Nassau Coliseum lease expires at the end of the 2014-2015 season.

A variety of emotions hit me when the announcement was made:  shock, sadness and anger at first, but most of all, I was relieved.

Even though every Islander fan knew that this day could come, it was still shocking when the formal announcement was made.  Not so much that the team was moving to Brooklyn, but rather that they were able to keep it under wraps until a few hours before the press conference was to take place at the Barclays Center.

The announcement saddened me for nostalgic reasons.  Words cannot describe what it was like to be a kid growing up on Long Island during the Islanders’ dynasty years.  I can’t say what it was like for the rest of the country, but on Long Island, hockey was very important.  Nearly everyone that I knew was either an Islander or Ranger fan, and the heated rivalry created intense moments between friends.

My father was never much of a hockey fan, so we didn’t go to a lot of games, but I went to some with friends.  Since I became a parent, I have taken my son to a number of games at the Nassau Coliseum, a place that holds many memories for me beyond the Islanders (concerts, the circus, etc.).

The fact that the Islanders will no longer call the Coliseum home in a few years makes me angry, but not at owner, Charles Wang.  I am angry that Mr. Wang did everything possible to work with Nassau County to get a new arena built inside of a complex that would have been called The Lighthouse Project, a place that would have benefitted the Islanders and Long Island alike, but it was stalled in its tracks by short-sighted, power-happy politicians.

As a lifelong Islander fan, I cannot say that I am happy about the move the Brooklyn, but I am relieved, and grateful to Charles Wang for keeping the Islanders local.

Although it has been a long time since the Islanders were truly relevant in hockey terms, it is a team steeped in tradition, and that tradition will now be preserved for many years to come (albeit in Brooklyn rather than on Long Island).

The banners that hang from the rafters of the aging Coliseum will now hang from the rafters of a state-of-the-art arena in Brooklyn.  The name of the team and the logo will remain the same, which is what should be most important to Islander fans, and for that matter, Ranger fans as well.  Had the Islanders moved to Kansas City (as rumored), the name of the team surely would have been changed, and the history of this once-great franchise would have been nothing more than a memory.  The heated cross-town rivalry with the Rangers would have been all but eliminated.

Ultimately, this move is likely to make the Islanders a more competitive team with a home-ice advantage that they haven’t had in years.  While some are concerned about the seating capacity of the new arena, the fact of the matter is that the Islanders wouldn’t have even filled the smaller venue on most nights in recent years.

The makeup of the fan base will surely change with this move.  No longer will suburban families be able to come home from work and take their kids to a midweek game.  While that is unfortunate for those who supported the team for many years, the reality is that families were not filling the arena on a nightly basis.  Having gone to a number of midweek games myself, I can attest to the fact that there were nights when the near-silent, half-filled arena had no energy whatsoever.

As a lifelong Islander fan it pains me to say it, but the energy that Ranger fans create for their team is what the Islanders can hope for now that they will be in a smaller arena filled with fans.

Thankfully, the new arena is very easy to get to with public transportation, so Islander fans will still be able to watch their team play, though not as often as they do now.

Given the choice between having the Islanders move to Brooklyn or some other part of the country, it’s clear that this announcement, while bittersweet, was clearly the best that any Islander fan could have hoped for under the circumstances.

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