Islanders make the move to Brooklyn — will the fans follow?
The relocation of the New York Islanders from Long Island may have cost them some fans, but the team’s owners are hoping to gain several new ones in Downtown Brooklyn.
Back in 2011, when the Islanders were owned by Charles Wang, the team decided it was not going to cough up $100 million to remodel their longtime home stadium, the Nassau Memorial Coliseum. Wang, who sold the team last year, decided to move the team from Uniondale, Long Island, where the team had been since since 1972, 28 miles west to the New York City borough of Brooklyn at the relatively new Barclays Center, which is less than four years old.
Not surprisingly, there were Brooklynites who supported having a new team in the borough (the Barclays Center is also home to the Brooklyn Nets).
“I love the move,” said Mr. Petrone, a teacher at the Wingate high school campus in Prospect Lefferts Gardens (he also moved to Brooklyn from Long Island. “It impacted my life and brought me closer to my father and brother.”
Some longtime Brooklyn residents think the move could boost the popularity of the Islanders among people of color.
“It’s good to put a hockey team in a predominately black neighborhood so more colored people get into the game,” said Martin Charles, a maintenance man. “We need to get more kids into the sport and putting this hockey team in Brooklyn is going to help New York do that.”
However, not everyone is happy to have the Islanders in Brooklyn.
“They are my favorite team but they might bring too much attention to Brooklyn,” said Patrick Hunt, 27, also a teacher at the Wingate campus. “We are gonna have so much traffic around Brooklyn in the area. We wouldn’t be able to get around.”
And so far, the move to Brooklyn hasn’t resulted in an increase in attendance — in fact, it’s been the opposite. As of the second week in November 2015, Islanders’ home attendance was down from 15,335 last season to 12,407, according to database of NHL teams attendance on ESPN.com.
Then there are the people left behind in Long Island. Nick Caprino, the manager of the Modell’s Sporting Goods in East Meadow, New York, said the Islanders jerseys are not selling like they used to before the team moved away.
“The fans in Nassau County are distraught because it’s way harder for them to travel to Brooklyn to catch a game,” said Caprino.
A Starbucks across the street from the Coliseum has also seen a dip in business since the departure of the Islanders, according to a store manager who only gave her name as Tiffany. She said that there are not as many customers for the franchise with the loss of game days.
“It’s wrong for them to leave because the team is a part of Long Island,” she said.
During the 2014-15 season, the Islanders ranked ninth out of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League, with a 47-28-7 overall record — winning 25 games at their former home. However, for the first two months of the 2015-16 season, they have hovered above 6th place in the Eastern Conference.
Street vendors, stores and restaurants surrounding the arena at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues are hoping to have new business activity from increased traffic come their way.
James Caldwell, a hot dog vendor outside the arena, expects his income to increase up to 30 percent.
“People eat when their team is winning,” said Caldwell.