Sunday would have been a big day for the Islanders and their fans, regardless of how bad things got on the ice before the coronavirus outbreak halted the 2019-20 NHL season.
A tumultuous five-year stay at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn would have come to an end with one final game against the Carolina Hurricanes — a day that many of the Islanders faithful, and even some of the players, were probably looking forward to.
On Feb. 29, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that all the Islanders’ potential home playoff games this season and every home game next season would be played at the team’s original refurbished home at the Nassau Coliseum until the team’s new arena at Belmont Park was completed in time for the 2021-22 season.
Considering the last few years, it was the only logical move that the NHL could make even if the Coliseum isn’t a viable major-league venue for the team.
Corrupt politicians hampered the Islanders’ ability to properly renovate the Coliseum — which was the team’s run-down and unchanged home since its inception in 1972 — forced the team to move to the Barclays Center full-time for the 2015-16 season.
The move uprooted the Islanders and moved them 30 miles west, which immediately raised concerns of the franchise isolating itself from the heart of its fan base in Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island.
The option of mass transportation via the Long Island Rail Road straight into Atlantic Terminal offered the promise of an easier commute got fans looking to make their way into New York City to catch a game.
But the partnership between the Islanders and the Barclays Center couldn’t have gone much worse.
Trains shuttling fans from Long Island to Brooklyn were cramped and unreliable (much like most LIRR trains) while the arena offered thousands of seats that had obstructed views of the ice.
No point in spending the extra money to catch a live game only to see 75% of the ice.
Along with poor sightlines and an off-center scoreboard was a lackluster experience for fans as the Islanders were treated like second-class tenants compared to the Barclays Centers’ main occupants, the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.
After all, the Barclays Center was built for basketball, not hockey.
Needless to say, the Islanders ranked in the bottom three of the NHL’s league attendance list in each of the three full seasons they played in Brooklyn.
With the writing of a split already on the wall, the Islanders won the bid to build an arena next to Belmont Park in Elmont, NY while splitting their remaining home games between Brooklyn and the Nassau Coliseum.
Now, with the coronavirus pandemic wiping out any more games at Barclays Center, this should be the time for Islanders fans to wipe their hands and exclaim “Good riddance!” to Brooklyn.
It’s understandable, but fans should take a moment to thank the cosmic-looking arena plopped on Atlantic Avenue where the legendary Ebbets Field proudly stood a century ago.
Had it not been for the Barclays Center, the New York Islanders might have become the reboot of the Quebec Nordiques or Kansas City Scouts or Hartford Whalers.
They could have become the Vegas Golden Knights or the Seattle Kraken… or Totems, or Sockeyes, or Thunderbirds.
When Nassau County kicked the Islanders out of the Coliseum, they had no place to go.
There were no plans for a new arena in Queens or Nassau or Suffolk. The only other arenas capable of housing an NHL franchise in the area was Madison Square Garden in Manhattan or the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.
The Rangers or Devils probably would not have taken too kindly to the Islanders moving in down the hall, anyway.
Brooklyn at least provided the Islanders and their fans some semblance of an exclusive hockey home, even if it wasn’t a positive experience.
For that — and for keeping them in New York — a tip of the Islanders cap is in order, even for a moment.