Just How Badly Have the New York Islanders Embarrassed Themselves in the Past Few Years?


In 2012, the New York Islanders left the ragged old Nassau Coliseum for the brand new Barclays Center. The Islanders, already operating at a loss, were happy to make a complicated move from Long Island to Brooklyn, where several thousand people had recently been displaced in order to build the new arena. Since the Islanders were already in a dire financial situation, the Barclays Center agreed to pay a lump sum of $53.5 million per year to the Islanders while collecting money for tickets, suites, and sponsorships–probably not the best financial decision for the newest sports franchise in New York City.


Now, due to extremely poor ice management and what Business Insider “the worst seats in professional sports,” the short marriage between the Islanders and the Barclays Center appears to be coming to an end. Several reports in early 2017 reported that the Islanders will not be playing at the Barclays for the 2017-2018 season. Apparently the deal that seemed so advantageous for the Barclays owners has not worked out as they hoped: the Islanders have an average attendance this season of just over 12,000, good for third-lowest in the league. So, the Islanders seem set to say goodbye to an arena that never should have hosted a hockey game.


The important question is where the Islanders go next. They reportedly would like to build their own rink, most likely back on Long Island although they are rumored to be looking in Queens and Belmont as well. The problem with a team building its own arena is that the team’s owner needs to find a lot of money–something the Islanders have very little of. Unless they can get help from outside investors (a group involving Rangers/Knicks/MSG owner James Dolan may be in the mix), the Islanders will most likely ask the local taxpayers for lots of help. This is already an unpleasant situation, as most New York taxpayers aren’t going to enjoy the idea of building a new rink for a disliked, borderline-failing NHL team. However, the negative effect goes further: as I stated, the Barclays Center displaced a huge amount of people when it was built through Eminent Domain. The least the Barclays could do is give back to the community by making money and paying taxes (which they do… barely). The Islanders playing there 41 nights a year means there can be 41 less concerts, basketball games, boxing matches, etc. all of which have consistently brought in significantly more money on an average night than the Islanders. Furthermore, the Nassau Coliseum has lost its only popular team, yet it is still sitting there, slowly falling apart in Long Island:


Now, the Islanders are looking for a new place to play, and getting there won’t be easy. Let’s hope wherever they go, they deviate from their recent history and avoid leaving themselves and everyone in their wake with a financial disaster.





6 thoughts on “Just How Badly Have the New York Islanders Embarrassed Themselves in the Past Few Years?

  1. nickbotta

    Really nice post, Matt. Is there any possibility that the Islanders could move rinks without needing to build a new one? I personally have attended a game at the Barclay’s Center and it was a very poor setting for a hockey game, in my opinion. I can see the perks of being in Brooklyn, but I wonder what the management was thinking when they saw the location, and if they tested out how an ice rink would fit in the arena before making the deal.

  2. mikelaffin22

    Great post, Matt. I wonder if the Islanders will actually end up moving rinks or if the move will turn out to not make much economic sense. I have actually played a hockey game at the Barclay’s Center and I thought it was a pretty special experience but after I attended an Islander’s game the next day, I quickly realized how bad of a hockey environment the building created. Its a shame to see so much money and effort be put into a project that turns out to be a failure. I wonder if the Brooklyn Nets will continue to play there if the Islanders end up relocating.

    -Michael Laffin

  3. timhaemmerle

    It sounds like the Islanders have limited options for a home stadium in New York. Perhaps a complete relocation to a different city is best for the franchise right now. It appears the local fans are not that attached since attendance has been so low, so maybe moving out of New York could save the team and possibly even have significant economic impacts on the city that would be its new home.

  4. Johnny Coughlin

    Great post Matt, I am wondering exactly what the best move for the Islanders is exactly? They left Long Island because they were not able to sell tickets thinking that being in NYC this would help. Even being a playoff team they still lack ticket sales. I am wondering if the demand for hockey games is just not there because of the Rangers and Devils all so close. Maybe the best business decision is to relocate the franchise?

  5. mattfitz87 Post author

    For those wondering, TSN has just reported two things: 1) Doug Weight has been named the Isles’ full-time head coach, removing the interim tag, and 2) the Isles’ next home will most likely be in Belmont, NY. These two things, mainly the stability of their next home rink, are going to be two of the most important factors in re-signing John Tavares this off-season. A future without Tavares wouldn’t bode well for the Islanders’ financial situation.


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