Barclays ready to say ‘Isle be seeing you’
Reports Indicate NHL Franchise May Move Following 2018-19 Season
The Barclays Center has never been anything resembling a perfect fit for the New York Islanders.
Whether it’s the obstructed view seating, a shoddy ice surface, far less than capacity crowds, or simply a community-wide malaise surrounding Brooklyn’s NHL franchise, conditions here have always appeared less-than-ideal here for the Orange and Blue.
Now, according to Monday’s Bloomberg News report, the arena and franchise may be brokering a divorce following the 2018-’19 campaign, if not sooner.
Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center owner Mikhail Prokhorov is apparently unwilling to continue doling out the $50 million-plus annual payment to the Islanders, as per terms of the allegedly “iron-clad” 25-year-agreement the team inked upon landing here under the ownership of Brooklyn Tech High School alum Charles Wang.
As reported in the Eagle back in July of 2016, there is a two-way opt-out on the original deal in which the Isles can wave bye-bye to Brooklyn following the 2017-’18 campaign, and Barclays can kick them out by the conclusion of the 2018-’19 season.
There is already conjecture on where the Isles will wind up next, be it a new arena adjacent to Citi Field in Willets Point – a deal that would doubtlessly involve the Mets’ owners – or a move back to their newly renovated Long Island digs at the Nassau Coliseum, though the rebuilt facility only houses up to 13,000 fans for hockey.
The Isles are currently averaging 12,828 fans per game at Barclays, ranking third-worst in the NHL thus far this season, and approximately 2,500 short of maximum capacity at Downtown’s home for professional sports.
During their inaugural campaign in Brooklyn, which saw the Isles win their first playoff series since 1993 last March, the team averaged 13,626 fans, good for 28th place on the 30-team circuit.
In order to make Barclays more suitable for hockey, something the original design of the Nets’ arena clearly didn’t call for, business would have to shut down for several months in order to change the piping beneath the ice from plastic to steel.
That would likely cost Prokhorov more than he’s willing to give up in terms of the arena’s ultra-profitable lineup of shows, concerts and boxing cards.
In other words, the Isles aren’t just languishing on the outskirts of the Eastern Conference playoff race this season, they’re also bordering on becoming irrelevant on the newly rejuvenated Brooklyn sporting scene.
While neither the team, nor the arena’s spokespeople are likely to weigh in on the matter anytime soon, the players themselves will doubtlessly be asked about the potential for yet another move going forward.
New York captain John Tavares, a free agent following next season, was bombarded with questions regarding his and the Isles’ future in Brooklyn during last weekend’s All-Star festivities in Los Angeles.
Tavares, a Toronto native, is arguably one of the top five players in the sport, and would be a natural fit with his hometown Maple Leafs come 2018.
But the best player the Isles have had since their halcyon days in the 1980s may be more interested in staying here if there are some signs of future stability from the franchise he grew up in.
New York recently fired long-time head coach Jack Capuano, and is also now being run by the ownership group headed by Jonathan Ledecky and Scott Malkin, who purchased the club from Wang following the move to Brooklyn.
The Isles (21-17-9, 51 points), who are currently five points behind Philadelphia for the conference’s final wild-card spot, were scheduled to return from the break here against Washington on Tuesday night.
They have won five of their last six games, and are 4-1 under new head coach Doug Weight.
Isle Have Another: The Isles announced Monday that starting goalie Thomas Greiss has agreed to terms on a three-year deal to stay with New York. The 31-year-old German netminder is 14-7-3 this season with a 2.28 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. It was Greiss who backstopped the Isles past Florida in the opening round of the playoffs last year, ending the franchise’s 23-year-old postseason series drought.
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The NBA-worst Nets, who will be back at Barclays Wednesday to host the East River rival Knicks, suffered their sixth consecutive loss Monday night in Miami, dropping a 104-96 decision to the surging Heat in front of 19,600 fans at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 16 points for Brooklyn (9-39), which has lost 17 of its last 18 games overall and is a dismal 2-22 on the road this season.
After yielding an average of nearly 120 points over its previous 10 contests, the Nets’ defense did buckle down against Miami (19-30), but a 17-0 second-quarter run sparked the Heat to their season-high eighth straight win.
“I thought there were a lot of positives out there,” Nets center Brook Lopez said despite being held to 14 points on 5-of-17 shooting.
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