It seems that everyone has an opinion on the Islanders arena situation, but there is only one that offends me personally. It's one I'd like to dispel, and it's the idea that the Brooklyn experiment failed because Islanders fans just don't come out to support their team. That's ridiculous, and if there is any reason Barclays Center simply doesn't work for hockey, it has nothing to do with a lack of support for this organization.
Scott Soshnick, the reporter who broke the Bloomberg story about Barclays Center becoming anxious to end their shaky marriage with the Islanders, said on many radio interviews that fans simply haven't come out in the droves that the arena brass expected. Whether intended or not, that has led to a degree of blame placed on this fan base by some of the national media (who is not nearly qualified to talk about this situation based on their lack of familiarity with all of its intricacies) and fans of other teams.
But make no mistake: Islanders fans are not the problem in this equation.
There were a few mortal missteps that Barclays Center made in importing the Islanders. First, they didn't realize what team they were getting into bed with. After rescuing the Nets from New Jersey, Brooklyn was red hot. The Nets had the top-selling merchandise in basketball, and the borough was thriving, particularly in terms of its newly-developed "brand." The Nets cast aside everything, from their visual identity to their future basketball assets, to start this hard-charging reboot in Brooklyn.
So when the 2012 announcement was made that the Isles would be on their way to Brooklyn, too, Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark thought he'd just do the same thing all over again.
Yormark has gone on the record numerous times saying a full-blown, black-and-white redesign of the team's uniforms, and potentially re-naming the team as the "Brooklyn Islanders" were on the docket before Isles fans went ballistic on social media at the very notion. The team's rich, winning history was diminished, as their various division, conference, and regular season champion banners were banished to storage, only to be reincarnated as a single banner that looks like it should be for sale on Fanatics.
They tried to change the goal horn. They tried to make up for the arena's shortcomings for hockey by cooling the ice surface with PVC pipes. They even tried to tell fans the seating in the area, which takes away largely half the building, wouldn't be that bad, restricted views be damned. To top it all off, for the inaugural season, they made a fan base entrenched on the tradition of Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night home games see the team have only four contests on those nights from October-to-January, the most vital window to get fans comfortable with the move.
Why? Not for the Nets to play. Simply so the building could hold the arena open for a concert that may or may not even come along. So in their stead, we got 6:00 puck drops on NFL Sundays and Friday night hustles to Brooklyn along with the rest of the world making their dart home for the weekend. Sounds like a formula for success!
Quite simply: Barclays Center thought they knew better. They thought they could wedge the Islanders into their world, make them their creation, and combine it with this hot lifestyle Brooklyn brand and they'd be off to the races. The problem is that's not who Islanders fans are, nor who they want to be.
I would venture to say that the support for this organization is almost stunning, considering all the false starts and false promises we've gotten from everyone from John Spano to Ed Mangano. In fact, if you look back to the darkest days of this organization - the 1999-2000 season - the average attendance at the Coliseum was 9,748. That's absolutely awful, but when you consider Florida Panthers fans turned out to the tune of 11,271 per game three seasons ago when they were a 91-point team, I think it puts in perspective just how loyal fans of this organization are, even when there's absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel.
The next chapter in this whole saga is being written, and we're largely in the dark about where the Isles will end up. But when it comes to the post mortem for Brookyn, you can't point to the fans as the cause of death. Did we ever want to go to go there? No, but let's not pretend that Brooklyn was never, ever anxious to accommodate us. So if there's a reason Islanders fans didn't come, it's because Brooklyn made it as hard as possible to do so.