The Brooklyn era is over for the Islanders
Team won't play at Barclays if, or when, season resumes
The novel coronavirus put the NHL season on pause last Thursday afternoon, with league commissioner Gary Bettman indicating that play will resume when it is “prudent and safe to start back up.”
COVID-19 also ended the New York Islanders’ Brooklyn era.
Isles General Manager Lou Lamoriello revealed earlier this week that any home games the Brooklyn/Long Island-based franchise will play when, or if, the 2019-20 season begins again will be hosted at the renovated Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.
The Isles were scheduled to host Calgary at Downtown’s Barclays Center this past Tuesday night and had their final Brooklyn game slated for Sunday vs. Carolina, a contest that could have gone a long way toward helping New York in its push toward a second straight postseason berth.
Both of those contests have been postponed and the NHL isn’t expected to return to action before mid-May at the earliest, if at all for the remainder of the season as the COVID-19 outbreak remains a fluid and ever-changing situation.
During a conference call Monday, Lamoriello addressed some of the issues surrounding the team he helped reach the Eastern Conference semifinals during his first season at the helm in 2018-19.
But like most of us, he didn’t have a lot of solid answers for what might happen going forward.
“What we are doing right now is looking at what the potential of what many different options might be and certainly knowing the options that we’re looking at might never happen,” Lamoriello said.
“We’re also preparing ourselves that we will play this year, not knowing when that might be and knowing that it might not happen.”
But not only for a Hall of Fame NHL executive who has spent more than three decades in this industry.
Players were informed that they could return to their respective homes in order to self-quarantine as the league is officially shut down from any activities until at least March 27, a date that will surely be pushed back in the coming days.
No NHL player has tested positive for the deadly virus yet, but the Isles have not been permitted to workout or practice at the team’s Northwell Health Ice Center on Long Island.
“I’m sure there will be a couple (of players) going home,” Lamoriello said. “I could not at this time tell you exactly who it is and who isn’t because some of them have changed [their minds] in the last couple of hours whether they will or they won’t.”
Lamoriello did reveal that COVID-19 testing is available for the team’s players and staff on a voluntary basis, but he did not offer any test results or indicate exactly whom had been tested.
The only thing the 77-year-old Rhode Island native seemed to know for sure was that the Barclays Center would no longer host the team it first welcomed back in 2015, when then-owner Charles Wang announced a “25-year, iron-clad” deal to move the team into the new building.
But the Isles were a bad fit here from the start, whether it was players complaining about perilous ice conditions due to the plastic pipes under the structure or fans griping about poor sight lines in the arena, which was built for the NBA’s Nets without taking hockey into serious consideration.
Even former Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov let it be known that he would prefer to fill the Isles’ home dates at Barclays with other, more lucrative events such as concerts, basketball tournaments and professional boxing.
The one thing the Isles and their fans can’t complain about when it comes to the Brooklyn era is the team’s record.
New York went 85-48-21 in 154 games at Barclays and also won its first postseason series since 1993 here in 2016, when former team captain John Tavares scored the Game 6 overtime winner to push the Isles past Florida in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Isles were riding a 10-game (7-0-3) points streak in Downtown Brooklyn this season before suffering a 6-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on March 3.
That proved to be the final game the Isles would play in our fair borough as they will continue this campaign, whenever the NHL season resumes, at The Coliseum.
Next year, the Isles will also play in Uniondale until their new arena is completed in Elmont, N.Y., adjacent to the legendary Belmont Racetrack, in time for the 2021-22 season.
By then, the Brooklyn era might seem like a distant memory to those who believed the team should never have played here.
But without Brooklyn, Wang may have been forced to move his franchise out of the tri-state area, or even up to Canada.
Those who didn’t appreciate the Barclays era must at least cede that it served its purpose for keeping the Islanders in New York.
And for that, Islanders fans should be forever thankful.