Exclusive Rewind: Hockey In Brooklyn
This story was certainly a fun one to put together. It was a few years ago, right when the Islanders were starting to realize Brooklyn was just not the proper setting (and it didn’t take long).
Before reading on, I'd like to clarify that I'm actually a die-hard New Jersey Devils fan, but unfortunately Doc Emrik, Chico Resch, or Martin Brodeur weren't available for an exclusive, and the interview at hand wasn't pertaining to the Rangers, so I was thrilled to go ahead with the story regardless.
While the franchise pursued a continued presence in the state of New York, it was the team's origin (and name) that was ultimately ignored. The Islanders were no longer playing in Long Island, they no longer had an association with any island, and being called the New York Boroughers just seemed out of the question.
The wheels came flying off quickly, as complaints from fans and Islanders' personnel became constant. This move was strategically placed to build stability within an organization who had been struggling with attendance for years, providing them with a huge upgrade from the dated coliseum to a shiny new arena.
Mind you, this is a team that reigned supreme just a few short decades prior as their dynasty dominated the first half of the 80s with four consecutive cups at the start of the decade, yet those times were clearly gone.
With attendance plummeting, funds drying up, the franchise went from a model franchise with winning tradition, to an absolute mess.
The 1990s & 2000s saw rumors swirling on numerous occasions for potential relocation and various calls for new ownership. Islander fans still can’t hear the name, John Spano in a conversation without cringing. Clearly some type of change was needed. The leading result, playing hockey in Brooklyn.
At the time, the transition was finally put in effect. I was lucky enough to catch up with an inside source in the form of Islanders statistician, Mark Zimerbort.
Zimerbort generously provided his time to shed light on what was almost certainly the foreseeable future, a future that would see hockey in Brooklyn be as good of an idea as hockey in Atlanta.
It's all mute at this point, as the Islanders are back to an actual island to which they can truly call home, but even before this inevitable fate, the writing can be seen on the wall years ago. With that, enjoy an...
Let’s face it; today almost every type of reputable brand from any industry is all about make the most money possible. The sports industry is no exception. Teams & leagues alike are constantly on their toes to find new ways to make more money.
Almost every arena/stadium is named after a company for bill paying purposes. Teams are implementing more ways to accommodate sponsors as much as possible. For example, the NHL not only has advertising on the boards & ice, but new advertisements are being placed on the glass behind the net. One would observe and could almost be certain it blocks some fans’ view, but it seems in today’s NHL that is an after thought as long as the team gets paid.
Making the most money possible is they number one goal, as it should be; but are teams taking it too far? Teams are constantly looking to relocate in search of larger profits.
One scenario that is great to bring up is the New York Islanders of the NHL (National Hockey League). They had a long respected history playing in Long Island at the famous Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders wanted a new stadium (for more revenue), but Long Island wasn’t willing to deliver.
So the Islanders packed their bags 30 miles west, and headed to an already built, brand new arena in Brooklyn, the Barclays Center. The arena itself is phenomenal, however the Islanders’ fan base is having a tough time adjusting early on.
They have a few valid points, as the Barclays center is in an NBA arena, and there hasn’t been enough done (yet) to officially make the Barclays more of a dual (NHL & NBA) arena.
To get an inside perspective, I was able to talk with MSG networks employee & Islanders stat analyst, Mark Zimerbort.
“They need to create synergy with the old & new… That’s probably their toughest challenge right now, they need to unite the old with the new, how they do it, I don’t know.”
The Islanders relocation is a bit trickier than others. They are still keeping the same fan base, but at the same time, leaving where most of their fans are from. Not to mention, they are in that tough NY market, where fans will jump ship as quickly as someone upgrades their smartphone. Not an easy marketing task to say the least.
“New York is a front runners town. Back in the 80’s the Yankees were a joke & no one wanted to go near Yankee stadium. After they were able to start their dynasty, everyone wanted to go to Yankee stadium.”
Luckily for the Islanders, they do have a good on ice product right now, which can make it easier to keep their focus on the marketing aspect of the relocation.
“Winning is everything,” exclaimed Zimerbort.
One aspect interesting aspect discussed with Zimerbort was the Barclays Center as the ‘home’ to the Islanders.
“It just doesn’t feel like home to a lot of fans right now. Granted, it’s only been a few games, but they’re needs to be more done so the Islander fans can feel more at home.”
Zimerbort brought up the points of having certain sections taped off, as well as having a Honda SUV parked behind one of the nets.
“It looks very minor league actually. It just doesn’t feel like an NHL arena.”
How about the fact there is no Islanders logo anywhere to be found on any concourse, but plenty of corporate logos. The walls are decked in black & white (for the Brooklyn Nets), but there is no orange or blue to be found anywhere.
“You can’t have Islander fans feel like second class citizens in their own arena, you have to make them feel comfortable. It’s about creating that synergy between the old & the new,” Zimerbort continued.
Zimerbort did list a couple of advantages of playing at the NBA geared Barclays Center,
“I think the unique shape is great thing. A lot of NHL arenas are all the same now days, with just different team logos on them. Because the Barclays was created for basketball, it’s shape is unlike any other arena in the NHL.”
Zimerbort continued by mentioning an advantage of having one of the smaller arenas in the NHL.
“The sound travels very well in here, & that should bold well for the playoffs. So a smaller arena definitely can have its advantages.”
The ole' saying, 'winning heals all' can certainly appease all Islanders fans if this advantage leads to a deep Stanley Cup Playoff run.