Isles are ‘half-in’ for Brooklyn in 2019-20
Team announces split-site home schedule for second straight year
The New York Islanders announced Wednesday that they would continue their unorthodox dual-arena scheduling for the 2019-20 season, marking the second straight campaign in which the Brooklyn/Long Island-based franchise would be splitting its home schedule in half.
The Barclays Center, where the Islanders went 12-6-2 during the 2018-19 regular season before dropping a pair of games to Carolina at the Downtown arena during the Eastern Conference semifinals, will host 20 of the team’s 41 home dates.
NYCB Live, better known as the Nassau Coliseum, will pick up the other 21 dates, including the Oct. 4 season opener against the Washington Capitals and the regular-season finale April 4 vs. New Jersey.
The Isles went 12-7-2 in Uniondale, N.Y, last season.
They also beat the Pittsburgh Penguins twice on Long Island during the opening round of the playoffs en route to completing a stunning four-game sweep.
Though the team ranked last in attendance on the 31-team NHL circuit at a paltry 12,442 fans per contest last season, the games at the “Old Barn” were certainly better attended considering the renovated arena’s modest capacity (just under 14,000 seats).
But the Coliseum’s lack of luxury suites kept it from hosting more than just the first round of the playoffs, especially in the wake of the league’s harsh announcement that the arena “does not qualify as an NHL major league facility.”
Apparently, it still qualifies enough to host the majority of home dates until the Isles get their dream facility built adjacent to the legendary Belmont Racetrack in Elmont, N.Y., a project that co-owner Jon Ledecky claimed was still very much “on track” despite the lack of even the earliest signs of construction as yet.
“I’m very confident that’s where we will be playing our games in the 2021-22 season,” Ledecky told Newsday back in May as the proposed site was undergoing a lengthy environmental review stage.
Even if the first shovel in the ground occurs before the end of this year, the Isles will likely continue their two-arena split into the 2020-21 season before moving into their state-of-the-art Belmont facility the following year.
This past season, there were rumblings that the Isles may move into the Coliseum full-time until the Belmont arena is erected and fully operational.
But the Commissioners’ office nixed that with its pre-playoff proclamation regarding the facility’s lack of “major league” quality.
So, it’s likely going to be half-in for Brooklyn for the next two years, and perhaps beyond if there are more delays to the start of construction in Elmont.
“From our side, all the amenities, like the dressing rooms, are better,” Isles head coach Barry Trotz said of the Barclays Center during last season’s playoffs.
“The only difference is a little bit of convenience and we’ll take that out. That won’t be a big deal.”
New York’s first home game in our fair borough next season will be on Sunday, Oct. 6 vs. Winnipeg.
The Isles will play three games in a row at Barclays Center from Nov. 5-9, highlighted by a Nov. 7 encounter with Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.
The Isles will host both of their home games against the Rangers in Brooklyn on Jan. 16 and Feb. 25, respectively.
That bit of scheduling might have something to do with the fact that the East River rival Blueshirts have lost all but one of their first eight visits to the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
The team will also host a pair of 1 p.m. matinees in Brooklyn on Saturday Nov. 9 vs. Florida and Saturday Feb. 1 against Vancouver.
While Isles general manager and team president Lou Lamoriello is doubtlessly still in the process of trying to secure the services of free-agent-to-be goaltender Robin Lehner and team captain Anders Lee, he did his best to boost the Isles’ roster during last weekend’s NHL Draft.
Lamoriello, who was seeking offensive help for a team that ranked 22nd in goals scored last season, selected Swedish forward Simon Holmstrom with the 23rd overall pick in the opening round.
“Our scouts were extremely high on him, where we had him rated,” Lamoriello said of Holmstrom, an 18-year-old right-winger who averaged just over a point per game in Sweden’s SuperElit League.
“It was unanimous with them, that if he was going to be there at that point, we were going to take him,” added Lamoriello.
Holmstrom has dealt with thumb and hip injuries, limiting to just 50 games over the last two years, but Lamoriello insisted that the Isles’ staff gave him a clean bill of health entering the draft.
“If doctors feel there are no issues then you go with that if it’s the best player,” Lamoriello said. “If there are any concerns, you don’t do it.”
Jack Adams Award-winning head coach Barry Trotz noted prior to the draft that the Isles were certainly lacking in scoring punch last season despite boasting the best goals-against average in the league.
He was also pleased with the organization’s pick.
“What our scouts are saying is that he’s got a really good release, lots of quickness, real good hockey IQ,” Trotz said. “When you’re watching him and [Mathew] Barzal walking together, hopefully they’ll play together some day.”
Barzal, whom Holmstrom named as a player he looked up to, was in attendance in Vancouver for the draft, and will likely be skating alongside the NHL neophyte when the Isles conduct their summer mini-camp on Long Island this week.
“It’s was pretty great [to meet Barzal]. He’s a great guy,” Holmstrom said after slipping on his Orange-and-Blue jersey for the first time Friday night.
“[He] was looking at my game and he really enjoyed it. I enjoy his game as well.”
At 6-foor-1 and just under 200 pounds, Holmstrom believes his path to the NHL will be hastened by bulking up a bit, both this summer and going forward.
“I think I need to work a lot in gym,” he humbly ceded. “They are men and I’m still just a little boy. Hopefully, I’ll be a man soon and hopefully have more strength in my legs and in my skating.”
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