With the start of the NHL season just around the corner, the New York Islanders Isles Fanatics Army are already excited for the new campaign.
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK—As the New York Islanders get set to open their pre-season on Sunday against the Flyers at Nassau Coliseum (how great does that sound?), there is a level of excitement from Islanders fans that we haven’t seen in a while. Even with the exodus of their franchise player, a new regime is in place with a plethora of young talent to build around.
Playing some games at their former home over the next few years until the Belmont arena is completed is also a shot in the arm for the fan base, but with Lou Lamoriello in place as President and general manager, along with new head coach Barry Trotz and players like Mat Barzal, Anders Lee and Ryan Pulock, it’s a really good time to be an Islanders fan.
The fan experience has always been an important part of going to Islanders games whether it was the 43-year run at the old Nassau Coliseum, the move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and now the return to their rightful home on Long Island. The ultimate goal of attending an Islanders game is seeing them win, but there is more than just the final score that makes up a day or night out in Islanders Country.
For a number of years, Islanders fan Jon Dooling from New Jersey ran social media fan pages posting team news, scoring updates and his opinions on the team. Now with over 15,000 followers over multiple platforms, Dooling’s efforts have sprouted into the “Isles Fanatics Army,” a loyal collection of Islanders fans from all over the area that books group outings with perks for several homes games each season.
“Isles Fanatics Army all started kind of out of nowhere,” said Dooling. “One day on Twitter, someone tweeted at me and suggested that I get some of my followers together and we should sit together at a game.”
Dooling did some research on that idea and contacted a ticket rep with the Islanders. The group purchased 35 seats together for a game at Barclays Center in March of 2017. The “Army” began in full force during the 2017-18 season it’s continuing to grow to enter this coming season.
This year, the group will be at games at both Nassau Coliseum and Barclays Center and the outings include t-shirts, opportunities to go on the ice after the game, and the chance to cheer on the Islanders as part of a fanatical group of supporters.
Isles Fanatics Army Outings for the 2018-19 season:
- Oct. 6 Home Opener at Barclays: 92 fans. Walk and pictures on the ice after the game.
- Nov. 24 at Barclays: 54 fans. 12 kids under 15 can high-five the players during an intermission.
- Jan. 8 at Coliseum: 88 fans. Walk and pictures on the ice after the game.
- Feb. 28 Tavares’s return at Barclays: 92 fans. Walk and pictures on the ice after the game.
- March 11 at Coliseum: 88 fans. Skate on the ice after the game.
“Going into the second full season, we have added more outings and added more tickets for each game,” said Dooling. “For each outing, I create shirt designs to put on orange shirts so that the group has a united feel and fans take notice of the group around the arena. Fan recognition at games and growth on social media have been the main key components towards the growth and interest in the group.”
Thanks to a great relationship with Islanders sales rep Steve Persaud, Dooling is able to obtain a block of tickets for each of the games that the group is attending and with that comes some unique fan experiences. Sometimes the group gets to skate on the ice, go on the ice for photos, and high-five the Islanders when they go on the ice.
Last season, owner Jon Ledecky even paid a visit to the Isles Fanatics Army at a game in December and brought Isles legend Bobby Nystrom with him to meet the fans.
“The relationship with the team has been nothing but amazing,” said Dooling. “I have been consistently in contact with members of the Isles staff and they have been great in supporting the group. Maintaining that support from within the organization is definitely important and has been great to have.”
As the Islanders await the groundbreaking and construction of their new arena next to Belmont Park, they will split time over the next three seasons between Barclays Center and the refurbished Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders home from 1972 to 2015. The Isles Fanatics Army will have events at both venues with the objective being to have a great night regardless of where the game is.
“From a group perspective, we’re going to continue to bring the energy no matter where the outing is,” said Dooling. “We have three set for Barclays and two set for the Coliseum this season. I am extremely looking forward to the tailgates at the Coliseum and rallying up the fans prior to the game. My goal is still the same…to grow and develop a consistent group of diehard fans so we can be as large as possible once Belmont comes around.”
The Islanders have opened up training camp and the start of the regular season is just around the corner. It’s going to be interesting to see what the roster looks like when the season starts and if Lou Lamoriello has any big moves up his sleeves. But the anticipation is building, especially for the fanatics who are ready to rock both home arenas this season.
Especially Barclays Center in February when a certain former captain makes his return.
“I think I speak for all Isles fans when I say that October needs to be here,” said Dooling. “It has obviously been a crazy and chaotic summer and I can’t wait to see the boys finally hit the ice as a squad. We have an outing set up for (the former captain’s) return (February 28th) which I can guarantee will be the craziest Army atmosphere yet. Lots of fun and excitement heading into the season and I can’t wait until it all gets started. Let’s go Islanders!.”
The puck is about to drop on what should be a very interesting season of Islanders hockey. Every home game will be fun to attend but it certainly sounds like a night with the Isles Fanatics Army is something that every New York Islanders fan should experience.