No matter what sport fans go to watch, the stadium is an important part of the fan experience. Whether it has history like the New York Rangers’ Madison Square Garden, or is a relatively new venue like Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center which opened less than five years ago, the stadium can bring fans in or keep them away. Nobody wants to pay money to go to a stadium that is showing signs of wear and tear. Coming into the year, the New York Islanders knew this was the last year in their stadium and they are giving it the proper sendoff.
The New York Islanders have been playing at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum since the team was founded in 1972. Next to in the in state rival Rangers, Nassau Coliseum is the second oldest arena in the league that is currently in use. Over the past 43 years, the Islanders brought four Stanley Cup championships to Long Island, but they have been in a drought as they haven’t won it all in over 30 years. After this season though, the Islanders lease is up and they will not be returning to the only home they have ever known.
Starting next season, the New York Islanders will be playing in a new home as they are moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Islanders owner Charles Wang entered a commitment that will last 25 years. The new stadium that opened in 2012 is currently home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and will welcome not only the Islanders, but the NCAA CBS Sports Classic next year. The $1 billion stadium actually has a smaller capacity than the Nassau Coliseum by about 500 seats, but it should be a better experience for the fans that are there. While there are less seats, the Islanders should have an easier time filling those seats.
Even when the team was in first place this season, the team struggled with getting fans to show up. They averaged a total of 15,334 this season which was the sixth worst in the league this year. That is roughly 1,000 seats that were not filled on a nightly basis. Out of the 16 teams that made the playoffs this season, only the Winnipeg Jets had a smaller average, but that was due to their smaller stadium. The Jets actually were over 100% capacity for the majority of the season, but the Islanders are among the lowest in the league with 94.8% filled. One would think that in the last year of the stadium, with your team in the playoff mix since the beginning of the season, it would be at if not over maximum occupancy.
Over the past couple of seasons, the Islanders have not been one of the better teams in the NHL. The Islanders made the playoffs once in the past seven years and that came in 2012-13. Last season, they had one of the worst records in the league and finished in last place in the Metropolitan Division. Granted last season they were without their best player in John Tavares, who hurt his knee in the Olympics last year, for the second half of the year. The Islanders are healthy though and they made some moves in the offseason and could be a surprise team this year.
This season the Islanders were one of the big surprises as they went from last place in the division to one of the best teams for the first half of the season. During the second half, they slipped back to the rest of the pack and ended the season with the third divisional spot in the playoffs. They have a top five offense scoring three goals a game, but what will determine how far they get will be their defense. They have a tough matchup with the Washington Capitals who have a high scoring offense led by the league’s goal scorer Alex Ovechkin. The team will need goalie Jaroslav Halak more than ever if they want to succeed.
There’s no better way to close out your building with a playoff run. That way the building that fans have come to know and love stays open for a little longer. For a place that has been the only home that Islanders fans have ever known, there is nothing better way to leave the stadium than with another Stanley Cup run. While the Islanders aren’t seen as a favorite in their series, let alone the playoffs, it wouldn’t be too crazy to think that they could make a run.