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How the Brooklyn Islanders are not like the Brooklyn Nets

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The NEW YORK Islanders were never going to be the Brooklyn Islanders.  The trademark is in the hands of two guys who live outside Trenton, NJ, and don't seem to have any connection to Barclays Center or the Nets.  Sounds like an investment, just in case.

If Brett Yormark had planned a name change, he or associated entities would have snapped up "Brooklyn Islanders" two years ago when the Isles announced they were moving to Brooklyn. That's what Bruce Ratner did in 2003 when he bought the Nets. He registered the "Brooklyn Nets" and "New York Nets" even before the ink was dry on the ownership transfer.

But the rumor or conspiracy continues to exist among Islander fans.  They're angry because the Islanders have announced that their team will wear black-and-white alternative uniforms for 12 games and wound up getting Yormark to relent on his plan to use a subway-themed goal horn.

The Nassau County executive Edward P. Mangano hasn't helped matters by suggesting the Islanders could eventually move back to the revamped Nassau Coliseum. That's not happening. Far more likely is that the Nets D-League team will be playing there in a couple of years.

Bottom line is that some fans think the family-friendly, atmosphere of the ragged and outdated Nassau Coliseum will be replaced by that of the New York "suits" and their cool, amenity-rich Barclays Center  It's a battle between suburbia and the new city folk, all hip and stuff.

There is evidence the battle is not going their way. Some might call it a surrender. Only a quarter of the season ticket holders at Nassau have renewed in Brooklyn and Brooklyn residents have outpaced Long Islanders in ticket sales, 33 percent to 25 percent, says Yormark et al.  Another 21 percent come from Manhattan. Management is not unhappy with the number. It's much higher than the number of New Jersey fans who followed the Nets.

But despite some similarities to the Nets move to Brooklyn, there are differences and the men who moved the Nets are learning them.

"We wanted to keep every [Nets] fan we could from New Jersey, but the fan base in Jersey wasn't as passionate as the fan base on Long Island," Fred Mangione, the chief operation officer of Barclays Center, tells Joe Delessio of Sports on Earth. "They have a much deeper history, the Cups they've won, the tradition of winning that they've had over the years, and you never want to mess with tradition."

There was nothing like that in New Jersey.  After all, their two ABA championships were won at Nassau 40 years ago and the last time an NBA Finals came wasn't sold out was at the Meadowlands in 2003.  So the Nets did a complete remodel.  For seven LONG years, fans knew what was happening. The "New Jersey Nets" were vaporized. "New Jersey" was removed from the stationary and the endlines.  The Islanders move has been more traumatic ... and more difficult for their fans and management.

Yormark has tried to convince fans that their legacy will remain intact, but, as Delessio notes, he has not minced words about the economics.

"At the same time, though, we must broaden the fan base," he told Michael Kay. "We must reach out to Brooklynites and areas beyond Brooklyn in order to grow this fan base, in order to make this very viable. I just want them to understand there has to be a balance of the new and old in order to grow this fan base, but also maintain the hardcore fan base that currently exists."

Despite all the punditry about mispent money, the Nets move to Brooklyn has worked. Of the nine major sports franchises in New York --two basketball, two football, two baseball and three hockey -- only the Nets and Rangers have made it to the playoffs each of the three years the Nets have been in Brooklyn. The Nets are no longer at the bottom of the NBA attendance ladder ... as, it should be noted, the Isles were.  Over the last 10 years, they've never been higher than 25th (last year) and five times in that period, they were dead last.  They lost an enormous amount of money.

Barclays is NOT perfect for hockey.  Probably never will be, but it is what you make of it. Also, winning helps.