As though the NHL lockout wasn’t enough to anger them, hockey fans on Long Island were given the news at a press conference on Wednesday that the New York Islanders, who had made their home in Nassau County since 1972, would be moving to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center beginning in the 2015-16 season.
Talk of relocating the Islanders has been boiling since 2006 and came to a head in August 2011 when voters in Nassau County rejected a referendum that would have broken ground on a new arena and kept the team in the county. As plans for the arena in Brooklyn were being developed, Islanders owner Charles Wang expressed an interest in moving the team there. When asked if the 25-year lease he signed with the arena is iron clad, he answered “Yes,” meaning the team will not move anywhere else in that timeframe.
“Charles Wang is the real hero today,” said Barclays Center majority owner Bruce Rattner. “He has kept the Islanders in New York State.”
Although some fans are happy to see their team in a new arena, others are understandably upset that their team is no longer as close as they had been. One long-time Islanders fan, who wished to remain anonymous, gave their reaction:
I’m relieved they aren’t relocating to another state or country, that’s what I was afraid of. But this is still horrible news for the county and for Long Island. If the local politicians had put aside their differences and okayed Wang’s original plan [an arena funded primarily by Wang himself], this would have been settled 6 years ago.
The Islanders may only be moving across the river, but to many fans, they’ll be a world away.