The news came as a bit of a stunner with the current ’12-13 season in trouble due to more butchering from the NHL and NHLPA. A week removed from saying last week’s meeting with the players was a step in the wrong direction, league commish Gary Bettman was on hand for Wang’s big announcement. The frequent target of everyone for the current state of hockey is a Long Island resident who repeatedly told anyone who would listen how much he wanted the Islanders to stay.
Once Wang’s plans for a new arena were voted down last year, the writing was on the wall. Nobody knew what would happen. Was he serious about possibly leaving for Kansas City or even Quebec? It was used as a ploy. When the club announced a preseason game for Barclays Center, it generated buzz. Was that the plan all along? To share the new arena with the Nets which only can seat 14,500 for hockey. Considering their attendance woes at Nassau Coliseum, it’s understandable why they pulled the trigger. The Islanders lease expires at the conclusion of 2014-15. This deal was in the works for seven months and needed to happen. There weren’t many alternatives.
The good news is they’ll retain the New York Islanders name and proud history. Nobody will ever come close to what that team did from 1980-83. Four Cups. Nineteen consecutive series wins. A dynasty. Of course, much has changed since with the franchise having last made it out of the first round in ’93 when they made a Cinderella run to the Conference Finals before falling to eventual champ Montreal. Those struggles have been well documented from terrible management that included two clowns for owners before Wang took over. Of course, it didn’t end there with Mike Milbury running the club into the ground. However, times have changed under Garth Snow with star center John Tavares leading a new wave into the future. They’re still a work in progress but the talent the organization boasts in the system bodes well. Especially with a new arena to play in that should be able to attract free agents. A big plus.
It’ll still take some getting used to for Islander fans who must make the subway trip to see their club. For loyal Long Islanders who lived close to the Coliseum, it remains to be seen how many will flock to Brooklyn. Early reviews are mixed on using mass transit.
“I wish they would stay on Long Island. I was an Islanders fan for many years and went to all the Stanley Cup wins,” former season ticket holder Sandy Thomas said in a TSN article. “But the county and the town did not want to spend any money to support them. It’s too much of a commute to go to Brooklyn to a game. I will watch it on television.“
“I will probably go to Brooklyn for a game,” explained Michael Callahan of the big change. “It is easily accessible by mass transit; that is a big plus. That is also one of the shortfalls of the Coliseum; there is no close train system. That is a big plus; Brooklyn is easy to get to.”
A new place could attract new fans. Especially in Brooklyn, who last had an NHL franchise in 1942. The Brooklyn Americans didn’t play there instead sharing the old Garden with the Rangers before drifting away post World War II. They practiced in the Brooklyn Ice Palace. Their final season saw the Americans finish in last place, posting a record of 16-29-3 for 35 points over 48 games.Tommy Anderson led them with 41 points and Mel Hill paced the club with 14 goals.
Brooklyn gets another chance at big league hockey. In a year where they’re already excited for the NBA to start up for the Brooklyn Nets, it gets even better. Not long ago, there was little in Brooklyn outside of Coney Island. Then baseball returned with the Cyclones. Now, it’s come full circle with basketball and hockey. Two professional sports teams for a place that was starved for it after Walter O’Malley took the Dodgers to Los Angeles.
This is a different kind of cyclone. Get ready for a unique rollercoaster ride.