The Islanders have become the NHL’s vagabonds. After three decades at Nassau Coliseum, they moved to Barclays Center three years ago in what was, as everyone now admits, a bad idea. Virtually nothing worked: the sightlines were horrible, the ice was worse and Long Islanders didn’t make the trek to Brooklyn while Brooklynites never caught the hockey bug. Attendance plummeted.
Now, the team plans to build its own arena, with the state’s help, at Belmont Park. That will take three years and in the interim, the team will split their home dates between Barclays Center and the renovated Nassau Coliseum, a gerry-built arrangement that promises confusion.
Brett Yormark, the architect of the Brooklyn move and now the return to Uniondale, spoke with Tina Cervasio this weekend about the whole magillah. He laid most of the blame on the Isles.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t work,” said Yormark in an understatement. “We had great hopes that moving the Islanders to Brooklyn would work. Unfortunately, they were like a rent-a-team. This team never really embraced Brooklyn, unfortunately.
“Their fan base resides in Long Island. They have a great, avid fan base in Long Island. Brooklyn just didn’t gravitate to the team as I had hoped they would. But I think the move next year, where they’re playing 12 games back in Long Island — and after next year we’ll probably play half the schedule, if not more [there] — is a step in the right direction.”
Yormark also cast a little shade on the Belmont plan. At best, the Islanders will move to the Queens-Nassau line in 2021-22. Yormark suggests the whole idea may be optimistic.
“Obviously, they’re looking to build their own venue. Not sure that ever happens, but if it does, I wish them well. But in the interim our goal was to bring them back to Long Island, have them play as many games as they can at NYCB Live (the official name of the Coliseum), and that’s happening, so I’m excited about it.”
As CEO of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, he has to be. BS&E, Mikhail Prokhorov’s holding company, controls both Barclays and Nassau and their bottom lines will depend on the success of the split season.
- Barclays CEO Brett Yormark calls Isles in Brooklyn a ‘rent-a-team’ - Neil Best - Newsday