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New York Islanders won’t be back in Brooklyn next year

GM Lamoriello quells hopes of return to Barclays Center

September 30, 2020 John Torenli
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It’s bye-bye Brooklyn all over again.

New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello quelled the hopes of borough residents eager for another season of NHL hockey Tuesday, indicating that Downtown’s Barclays Center would not be the team’s venue during the 2020-21 campaign.

“We will definitely be playing at the [renovated Nassau] Coliseum next year,” Lamoriello said.

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“That is a confirmation.”

With the team’s long-time home in Uniondale, NY, currently shuttered, many prognosticated that the Isles might return to Barclays next year in advance of the opening of their new state-of-the-art UBS Arena in Elmont, NY for the 2021-22 season.

But that scenario was dashed when the Hall of Fame executive and reigning NHL General Manager of the Year indicated that the Isles would play at the Coliseum next season.

If, of course, the league gets back to playing in front of fans after finishing this past season in a bubble site.

“Hopefully, sometime in the coming year at the Coliseum we will have fans,” Lamoriello said.

“Hopefully we can get back to more normal situations for our sport, but the most important thing is having everyone safe and sound.”

The Isles have been in Brooklyn for at least part of every season since 2015, going 85-48-21 in 154 home games and winning their first postseason series since 1993 here in 2016.

A 6-2 loss to Montreal at Barclays on March 3 turned out to be the Isles’ swan song in Brooklyn as the COVID-19 outbreak followed just over a week later, ending any hope that New York would play here again as scheduled on March 17 and 22.

The Isles did thrive at the NHL’s bubble sites in Toronto and Edmonton when play resumed, advancing to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in 27 years.

However, they eventually lost a tough, six-game series to Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay, leaving them two wins shy of their first Cup Finals appearance since 1984.

Many felt the Isles were a bad fit in Brooklyn 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.

New Barclays Center and Nets owner Joseph Tsai won’t have to worry about hosting the Isles anymore, as the team has clearly moved on from its temporary home.

“It’s an exciting time for our fans over the next couple of weeks,” Lamoriello said. “It’s my understanding that the seat selection for the season ticket holders who have already purchased at Belmont will be taking place next week and in the early part of the following week.

“It’s exciting if you haven’t seen the website to see what the building is starting to look like. The roof should be complete over the next couple of weeks, but it’s just an exciting time.”

Less so for Brooklynites who were seeking the borough’s first major pro sports championship since the Dodgers beat the Yankees in the 1955 World Series.

Thomas Greiss and the Islanders suffered a 6-2 loss to Montreal on March 3 in what turned out to be their final game at Downtown’s Barclays Center. Photo: Kathy Willens/AP

Isle Have Another: Lamoriello also talked about Isles players eligible for restricted and unrestricted free agency this offseason, most notably Mathew Barzal, who had five goals and 17 assists during the team’s longest playoff run in 27 years. The All-Star center is a restricted free agent and can begin receiving and signing offer sheets as soon as Oct. 8, which Lamoriello would have to match or better to keep the 23-year-old here. “It is our intention to not allow it to get to that point, but should that happen, the answer is yes,” Lamoriello said when asked if he would match any offer presented to his team’s leading scorer by potential suitors. … Ryan Pulock and fellow defenseman Devon Toews are also on the Isles’ RFA list and goaltender Thomas Greiss, defenseman Andy Greene and forwards Matt Martin and Tom Kuhnhackl are also set to become unrestricted free agents.

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