The impending New York Islanders return to Nassau Coliseum is great news for Long Island natives, but damning news for Barclays attendees.The New York Islanders will be heading home to Nassau Coliseum to play 12 regular season games in 2018-19, and half of all home games after next season until Belmont’s completion.
For Long Island natives, this is great news. There should be little to no concern in filling the Coliseum, which saw a reduction from 16,170 to what is now 13,917 and especially when the Isles averaged 15,334 people during the 2014-15 season.
What hasn’t been discussed or considered is the impact a return to the Coli will have on the other 29 home games to be played at the Barclays Center. In their first season in Brooklyn, the Islanders averaged 13,626, which slipped to 13,101 in 2016-17.
This past season? 12,002.
Obviously, the attempt at cultivating a local Brooklyn market has been overwhelmingly unsuccessful. When the move was initially done in 2015, the belief would be that ticket prices would rise in a brand new arena. According to Vivid Seats, the Islanders have the sixth-lowest ticket prices in the NHL. Clearly, the issue continues to be that Long Island natives detest the commute to Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment is well aware of the attendance issue and they’ve been quick to point the finger at the Islanders. All the while, the only initiative taken by the Barclays Center to make changes have been in the face of criticism. Remember fighting for the right to watch warmups in 2015? Or the stark lack of Islander memorabilia in their first months there?
The whole thing felt like a shotgun wedding when it was all said and done. To put it like Islander owner Jon Ledecky: “it sounds like they made a bad deal.”
Imagine what a Coyotes-Islanders game at the Barclays Center will look like with the allure of 21 other Coliseum games in 2019-20. The Coyotes visit to the Isles home this past season averaged the lowest of any of their games: 9,795. Of the lowest-drawing games last season, (excluding games played after March since attendance dropped sharply in general) four of the bottom-five were against Western opponents.
The Islanders haven’t announced the teams for the home dates, but it’s a safe bet to assume that Metropolitan rivals will all see Coliseum ice once more, leaving the Western games to Brooklyn.
Perhaps at the end of the day, none of this is an issue for Barclays management seeing that they own both buildings. Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment have tried to push the Islanders to play more home games at the Coliseum, much to the noted opposition of Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Either way, Belmont’s projected opening is well on schedule, so perhaps this issue can blow over in the next three years. But, it is the Islanders, so don’t hold your breath.