NY Islanders May Return to Long Island

Will the Islanders be returning home?
Will the Islanders be returning home?

For the last two years, the legendary New York Islanders hockey team has played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

They’ve kept the name because of the history of this team, but from a certain point of view, the move to Barclays was a move off Long Island.

That point of view is blazoned across the chests of the uniforms of the Islanders. It consists of the word ISLANDERS together with a silhouette of Long Island, but the silhouette does not include Brooklyn (or Queens) even though by any physical examination of Long Island, the island extends all the way from Montauk to the Midtown Tunnel.

The reasons for this are clear. Brooklyn and Queens are boroughs of New York City. Thus, true Long Islanders cut off the head of the island when they draw Long Island without giving it a second thought. The lack of a fish head finds its way not only onto the Islanders’ jersey but onto the side of many blue collar workers’ trucks as JOE’S PLUMBING AND HEATING. WE SERVE LONG ISLAND. The two flukes of the tail, North and South Forks, wave merrily off to the right.

Now it turns out that the Islanders may be giving serious consideration to returning to where they used to play on Long Island. That was at the Coliseum in Uniondale. If they do move back there, Long Island, once again, will have a major league sports franchise it can call its very own. (If you don’t think of Brooklyn or Queens as Long Island.)

The old Coliseum is undergoing a sensational re-design, both inside and out. It had this dorky 1950s look when it was built all those years ago. Now, photographs of the new $260 million renovation already in place show an exterior worthy of the gods, or, of the Islanders.

Two weeks ago, Newsday reported that Edward Mangano, the Nassau County Supervisor, has been meeting with Jonathan Ledecky, one of the two owners of the Islanders, about such a possible move.

According to the contract the Islanders signed with the Barclays Center three years ago, either Barclays or the Islanders can opt out of their contract in January 2018. If that is going to happen, the Islanders could be in the Coliseum for the 2019 season—which coincides with the grand opening of that new facility.

It is not well known, but to move to Barclays, the Islanders had to become second-class citizens at that location. They have to give up the arena at Barclays whenever the Brooklyn Nets basketball team schedules a home game. Furthermore, during the season—basketball and hockey coincide—the Nets have the option on two occasions a year to play a home game elsewhere, while the Islanders do not.

There are other problems. The Barclays Center was not properly set up to host hockey. There are 1,500 locations where the view of the ice is obstructed. The ice itself, in an arena not originally built for hockey, is not properly smooth for the game. The players are frustrated playing on it. And the fans, who are mostly from “Long Island,” are very unhappy with the parking at Barclays, not to mention the long drive off Long Island (ahem) to get there. Finally, many hockey fans in New York City are attracted to the Rangers at the Garden or the Devils at the Meadowlands to watch the games.

I’m all for the move. Although Long Island’s big city surely has to be Brooklyn—which was an independent city until 1898, when it was annexed to become merely one of the boroughs of New York City—true Long Islanders, looking at a Brooklyn court system, mayor’s office and capital buildings now abandoned, said good riddance, and, unable to do anything about it, symbolically chopped off its head.

Islander hockey—the team won an astonishing 19 playoff series in a row while winning four Stanley Cups in the early 1980s—a feat never accomplished before or since in professional sports. It is a legendary achievement. The Islanders are hockey royalty. And everyone is proud of the Islanders here.

Read more of Dan Rattiner’s stories

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