When the New York Islanders host the Chicago Blackhawks on October 9, it will mark the first-ever regular-season NHL game in Brooklyn.
We joined fans new and old (the Islanders estimate that their season ticket sales thus far break down about one third Long Island, one third Brooklyn and one third elsewhere) at Barclays Center for a preseason game to get a feel for the new digs and prepare you for your own visit. Here's what we found.
1. This ain't the Coliseum.
Hardcore Islander fans loved the old Nassau Coliseum because it got loud for big games and was charming in its own peculiar way. Longtime supporter Tom DeLuca said he'd miss the suburban arena's “leaky pipes,” among other things.
But fans do appreciate the niceties of Barclays Center. Long Island resident Stuart Turman took a break from exploring upscale in-arena candy shop Sugar Factory (it's like an amusement park in there) to call the new venue “an upgrade as far as luxuries.”
The concessions include versions of such Brooklyn fare as Habana Outpost and Williamsburg Pizza, and there are also club areas named for Calvin Klein and music publication Billboardthat give high rollers a chance to combine their primo seats with live music, DJs and, perhaps, the occasional celebrity encounter. They're fancy.
2. Know your seats.
There’s been a lot of talk about Barclays Center’s transition to a hockey layout. Most spots offer good sightlines, and ice-level seats provide a particularly thrilling perspective; Barclays Center representatives say 150 of them are 3 feet higher than at most NHL arenas. As a result, players thump into the boards near the eye level of those seated near the glass. It's exciting and almost scary.
The seats in the 200-level sections seem to be a place to find much of the old guard. “Come up to section 227,” DeLuca says, surrounded by friends in blue-and-orange gear including a scarf and goggles. “We have a drum!”
3. Say hi to the organist.
Walk in via the main entrance and head straight past the first merchandise stand to meet Paul Cartier, the Islanders' organist for the past 15 years; his first appearance for the team was back in 1979. He also performs at Yankees games.
On Long Island, Cartier played from an elevated perch. His new spot gives him more chances to talk and pose for pictures with fans (in between songs, of course). Though he misses the short drive from his house to the team's old home, he gives the new setup a positive review: “I prefer it,” he says. “I make lots of Facebook friends.”
4. Take the train; the players do.
The Long Island Railroad and 11 subway lines stop either at or very close to the arena (there are buses too, if you prefer), and mass transit is the easiest way to get to games. If you don't believe us, talk to forward Josh Bailey.
“We come right up the Atlantic Terminal and just walk over,” he says. “I feel like a regular New York commuter on game days…A couple of guys, if we play on weekends or a holiday game, will probably drive in—but it's a little too risky with the traffic to drive right now.” So if you want to be on time, hop on the subway or railroad. You might even run into a 6'1”, 210-pound Canadian pro hockey player.
Turman, the fan we met at Sugar Factory, notes another advantage of mass transit: “We can drink on the train.”
5. And they're getting used to the neighborhood.
Bailey and other players went around the block to Broccolino, a modest Italian restaurant, for their pregame meal, and are slowly but surely getting a feel for their new cosmopolitan environs.
“There's a lot of people,” says Bailey of the move to the City. “Coming from Long Island, it's a little different. We're used to a slower pace out there, and where I'm from back home [Bowmanville, Ontario].”
6. Brooklyn is on, but not in, Long Island.
It's true. As has been widely reported, Brooklyn and Queens are geographically part of Long Island though they're politically and culturally part of New York City—so you can rest assured that the team's name still makes sense.
Nevertheless: the Islanders' Brooklyn predecessors in the NHL, the Brooklyn Americans, had Brooklyn in their name but never actually played a game in the borough (their home ice was Manhattan's Madison Square Garden, then on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets). The Islanders, meanwhile, do not have Brooklyn in their name, but make their home there. What a world.
To buy Islanders tickets, visit ticketmaster.com.