When the New York Islanders announced today they’ll be moving to Brooklyn in three years, the reaction around the NHL must have been, “Why wait so long?”
“People on the Island might be mad they weren’t able to get a deal done there,” Capitals veteran winger Jason Chimera said when told of the news. “Hopefully, it will prosper more [in Brooklyn] than in the Island.”
Our sentiments exactly. Nassau Coliseum is the second-oldest arena in the NHL, behind Madison Square Garden. But unlike the Garden, which was beautifully renovated last year, the Coliseum is in desperate need of a facelift.
“It’s the NHL, it’s not like it’s a hard place to play,” Chimera said. “It’s a little run down, but it’s still a hockey rink. We played in a lot worse growing up.”
The Isles began playing at the Coliseum in 1972 and won four Stanley Cups there in the early 1980s. But despite several attempts to rebuild, the Islanders have not been to the playoffs since 2007 and finished with the second-worst attendance in the NHL last season at 13,191, well below the Coliseum’s 16,234 capacity.
The Islanders’ future home, Barclays Center, is also the new home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. It currently seats 14,500 for hockey, although NHL commissioner Gary Bettman anticipates the building adding at least 500 more seats by the start of the 2015-16 season.
Even with the extra seating Barclays Center would be the smallest building in the NHL, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing for the Islanders, who will keep their name and logo despit the move inland.
“It’s good for them, I think,” Caps winger Jay Beagle said. “They have a lot of up and coming talent and hopefully they can go to a place that fills the barn and gets sellouts.”
Beagle says he’ll always hold a special place in his heart for the Coliseum since he often played there as a rookie call-up from the Hershey Bears.
“It was my lucky spot, so I have some good memories there,” he said.
The Capitals have had a few defining moments on Long Island as well. They played their first-ever playoff game at the Coliseum back on April 6, 1983 with goalie Pat Riggin between the pipes.
In fact, the Caps and Isles faced each other five straight springs from 1983-87 but have played only once in the playoffs since.
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