The New York Islanders: A Changing Culture
On September 26th, John Tavares and the New York Islanders visited the Scotiabank Centre for an NHL preseason game against the Carolina Hurricanes. The game was an exciting one, though the attendance for such a big event was pitiful. However, the atmosphere was still great, with Islanders and Hurricanes fans from around the Maritimes in town to catch some action from their respective teams. It was a fun night for all.
Since watching the game, I’ve been thinking about the Islanders a lot. This is a big season for them. They’re an up-and-coming team with a solid core, they have an impeccable captain in John Tavares, and they’re on the verge of becoming a powerhouse in the NHL. However, this season is about more than what they do. It’s about where they do it.
After playing at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, or “The Old Barn” as fans had endearingly called it since the team’s conception 40 years ago, the Islanders are moving on. The team’s new home sits on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, at the state of the art Barclays Centre. One might think that Islanders fans would be overjoyed about the upgrade. That isn’t necessarily true.
The move by the Islanders has induced lots of backlash. The Islanders are a team steeped in a rich Long Island culture and many fans believe that the team belongs to Nassau and Suffolk County, not New York City.
Barclays Centre executive, Brett Yormark, has been bending over backwards to appeal to the stubborn fans, but has yet to win them over. One primary issue for the fans was the distance they’d have to go to see a game. Most Islanders fans were used to a short commute to Uniondale, which was practically in their backyard for a long time. Now, they’re forced to come into the big city for every game, and they’re pretty irritated over it.
Executives tried their best to solve this by striking a deal with the Long Island Rail Road. The train line would provide transportation to Brooklyn just for the fans.
Next, there was protest over the new Barclay’s Centre goal horn. After incredibly negative reception, it was replaced with the classic one. Yormark clearly seems to understand the importance of easing the transition for Islanders fans, because simply put, attendance equals money.
However, despite all of the attempts to pacify fans, it just hasn’t been enough. It’s hard not to wonder if the argumentative nature of the Islanders faithful is about not liking the Barclays Centre, or if it’s about not wanting to let go.
The Coliseum was home to these fans. The home that was associated with countless memories and four Stanley Cup Championships. It was a difficult, nostalgia-charged goodbye for them and they fear losing their culture. However, like my mother told me when we moved houses for the first time, it’s up to them to keep the memories alive in Brooklyn and make the best of it.