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New York Islanders: The Loose Puck

By Morgan Evans:

The New York Islanders lack a genuine “home” ice. From 1972 to 2015, the Isles resided in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island. In 2015, the New York Islanders moved from Long Island to Brooklyn. Here, they share the Barclays Center with the New York Nets. Their transition to Brooklyn has not been as successful for either the team or the arena as anticipated. This season, the Isles are splitting their games between the Barclays Center and the Coliseum. They will continue to split their games between the two facilities until their new arena is completed.[1]


The Islanders are having an official home arena built. The Belmont Arena will sit in the Belmont community of Long Island and seat up to 18,000 fans. The surrounding area will feature 435,000 square feet of retail space including a movie theater, hotel, and community park. Although ground for the project has not officially been broken, those working on it say it should begin early 2019 and finish in time for the 2021-2022 season.[2]


The Barclays Center was not built to be suitable for hockey games. The way the seats are arranged, fans often complain of obstructed view and the scoreboard being off-center.[3] Another part of the struggle for the Isles to succeed in Barclays is due to management. Mikhail Prokhorov owned a 49% stake in both the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center. Although he recently sold his stake in both, his influence was considered when drafting a lease between Barclays and the Islanders.[4] During Islanders games, there is even Nets gear for sale throughout Barclays. Because of this alleged favoritism for the basketball team, it has arguably made the Islanders growth in the Brooklyn market more difficult.


The pressure started to build for the Islanders to leave in the first quarter of 2017. The Barclays Center has been losing money since the Isles have been adopted. This season, the Isles have the lowest average attendance of the NHL so far, averaging just over 10,000 fans.[5] For Islanders games, the arena does not allow for the entire Barclays Center to be seated. During Nets games, the entire seating chart is available for fans. The Nets average over 16,000 fans each home game that easily allows the Barclays Center to make more money off the franchise.[6] Barclays gets its revenue from games sales, sponsorships, and suite sales. The agreement between the hockey team and the facility guarantees the Islanders $53.5 million from the Barclays Center each year. In 2017, Bloomberg speculated that the Barclays Center would make more money from concert revenues than hosting the Islanders because of their poor attendance, not generating enough money to sustain, and concerts could be a more consistent income.[7]


Starting this December, the Islanders home games will be divided up between playing in Long Island and Brooklyn. For the following two seasons, more games will be played in Long Island than in Brooklyn to phase the Islanders out. These are the current terms of the Islanders lease until the Belmont Arena is completed.[8] Though some say the Islanders should commit to playing in the Coliseum after this season, there is no final word on this situation. Stationing the Isles back in Long Island would give them a head start on regaining their identity and building their fanbase back up in preparation for their upcoming arena.[9]


By moving around, the team has not been able to find a consistent group of fans to fill their games. This has made the Islanders struggle in being able to grow as a franchise. Splitting their games between two arenas likely will make this problem worse. Neither venue is suitable for a growing hockey market with so few seats available to be sat at Barclays and even less available seats at the Coliseum compared with other teams’ venues.[10] Brooklyn has not taken to the Islanders because they originate from Long Island. Fans from Long Island that were able to watch the Isles play in their area aren’t making the 28-mile trek out to Brooklyn. The Belmont Arena completion will finally allow for the Isles to expand their market in a home location. The Islanders will be able focus on growing their franchise rather than searching for a place to play. The Belmont Arena means finally giving the New York Islanders a true home ice advantage.

[1] Zach Spedden, “Amendment Sought to Nasau Coliseum Lease.” Arena Digest, February 14, 2018, https://arenadigest.com/2018/02/14/2018-02-14-amendment-sought-to-nassau-coliseum-lease/

[2] Jim Bambach, “Islander’s Arena at Belmont Park Set to Start on Schedule, State Emergency Says.” Newsday, April 30, 2018 https://www.newsday.com/sports/hockey/islanders/islanders-arena-at-belmont-park-set-to-start-on-schedule-state-agency-says-1.18335153

[3] Matt DiGiacomo, “New York Islanders, Barclays Center Partnership Approaching Merciful End.” Elite Sports NY, July 21, 2018 https://elitesportsny.com/2018/07/21/new-york-islanders-barclays-center-partnership-approaching-merciful-end/

[4]“Mikhail Prokhorov.” Forbes.com, November 3, 2018 https://www.forbes.com/profile/mikhail-prokhorov/#64cf24ea3f22

[5]“NHL Attendance Report 2018-19.” ESPN.com, http://www.espn.com/nhl/attendance

[6] “NBA Attendance Report 2018– 19.” ESPN.com, http://www.espn.com/nba/attendance

[7] Scott Sosnick, “Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.” Bloomberg, January 30, 2017 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-30/brooklyn-s-barclays-center-said-to-be-dumping-the-islanders

[8] Zach Spedden, “Amendment Sought to Nasau Coliseum Lease.” Arena Digest, February 14, 2018, https://arenadigest.com/2018/02/14/2018-02-14-amendment-sought-to-nassau-coliseum-lease/

[9] Chris Botta, “Islanders Should Leave Barclays Center For Good After 2018-19 Season.” Islanders Point Blank, July 17, 2018 https://www.sny.tv/islanders/news/islanders-should-leave-barclays-center-for-good-after-2018-19-season/286220130

[10] Amy, “Nassau Coliseum Seating Guide for the Renovated Long Island Arena.” Vivid Seats, October 21, 2016 https://www.vividseats.com/blog/nassau-coliseum-seating-and-events-schedule

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