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Islanders to Play at New Arena in Brooklyn

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Perhaps hinting that they are seriously considering alternatives to Nassau County, the Islanders will be the home team in the first N.H.L. game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The Islanders and Brett Yormark, chief executive of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment and the Nets, announced Tuesday that the Isles would play the Devils in an Oct. 2 exhibition at the new Brooklyn Nets basketball arena.

The announcement serves as another shot across the bow of Nassau County politicians and voters, who have rejected every effort by Islanders owner Charles Wang to upgrade or replace Nassau Coliseum, the club’s 40-year-old home. Although the 16,250-seat Coliseum is one of the N.H.L.’s best buildings for sightlines and intimacy, it is virtually inaccessible by public transit and has few of the money-spinning corporate luxury enticements that provide revenue at other arenas.

When asked last September if the Islanders would move to the Brooklyn arena when the club’s Coliseum lease expires in 2015, Bruce Ratner, the developer behind the Barclays Center. said, “I would hope that’s possible.”

In a phone conversation Tuesday, Yormark said, “We would love for Charles to consider Brooklyn.”

Yormark said the Barclays Center approached the Islanders about the game, but added that Nets ownership has not inquired about ownership of the Islanders or any other N.H.L. franchise. There are also no current plans to host any regular-season games at the Barclays Center.

Yormark said the exhibition game was “a first step: good for the Islanders to play before hockey fans in Brooklyn, and good for Brooklyn to have its first N.H.L. game.”

N.H.L. Commissioner Gary Bettman has been a vocal supporter of Wang’s efforts to get a new or extensively upgraded building for the Islanders. He commented briefly on the Islanders situation in answer to reporters’ questions Saturday during the N.H.L. All-Star weekend in Ottawa.

“They still have three and a half years to go,” Bettman said, referring to the club’s Nassau Coliseum lease. “Long Island deserves a new building, not just for hockey but for concerts and family shows and the like.”

The Barclays Center would qualify as that new building, at least according to the N.H.L.’s territorial terms. The Islanders are entitled to play anywhere on Long Island, including Brooklyn and Queens, so a move to the Atlantic Yards would not qualify as a relocation.

Yormark confirmed that the Nets and the arena group met with Bettman last year in an informational meeting to let the N.H.L. know it was interested in hosting a league team. The group pitched its advantages: 2.7 million people, public transportation and a state-of-the-art arena – even if it is tiny by league standards, with a capacity of 14,500 for hockey.

The league’s current smallest arena is the Winnipeg Jets’ 15,000-seat MTS Centre, where every game has been sold out in this, their first season back in the N.H.L. since 1996. The Islanders’ official average attendance is just 12,670 this season, 29th in the 30-team league

The game will be one of the first events at the building, which will open on Sept. 28 with the first of several concerts by Jay-Z, who is also one of the arena’s main investors.

The Barclays Center’s original design, by the prominent Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, included a full configuration for N.H.L. hockey. But when the Atlantic Yards development was downsized in the face of strong community opposition and a struggling economy, Gehry was let go. His design was replaced with a cheaper, more modest one that treated a hockey rink like an afterthought.

When the Barclays Center’s seating configurations were released in 2010, they did not include a seating chart for hockey.

The Islanders have struggled with poor attendance and poor performance on the ice for years. Their last playoff appearance was in 2008 2007, and they have not advanced beyond the first round since 1993 – a sad fate for a team that won four straight Stanley Cups and a record 19 consecutive playoff series in the early 1980s.

The announcement coincides with a screening of “Battle for Brooklyn” at the Old American Can Factory on 3rd Street and Third Avenue at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The 2011 documentary traces the seven-year effort of a Prospect Heights man to block the arena’s construction and save his home from demolition.

Slap Shot Blog


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As much as I hate Long Island, I have to side with Wang on this. Keep them in Nassau County. It's been a viscious cycle for the Islanders. On one hand, the taxpayers don't want to pay a little more for the arena because they haven't been Islanders fans since the 80s. On the other hand the Islanders could really use the new building and increased revenue to bolster their team and get the fans back.

It's really been silly. Last year, the voters of Nassau County rejected a proposal to construct Charles Wang's new arena. The average household in Nassau County would pay an additional $4 PER YEAR in property taxes. That's it! But it seems that four bucks is worth more to the citizens than the New York Islanders. And that is a shame...

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Well, where does it stop once you throw in $4 more here, another few there. Taking a step back from being a hockey fan, paying more taxes makes no sense. The players make millions, as do successful owners. You want a new stadium, make money and build it yourself. Just my two cents.

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