The NHL’s New York Islanders Are Headed to Brooklyn

New York Islanders Hockey - P 2012
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New York Islanders Hockey - P 2012

The team is fleeing Nassau County to make the new Barclays Center its home starting with the 2015-16 season.

The NHL’s New York Islanders are moving from their aging arena on Long Island to the spanking new Barclays Center in Brooklyn beginning with the 2015-16 season.

The team, which has played at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale since entering the league in 1972, has signed a 25-year agreement to skate in Brooklyn, Islanders owner Charles Wang announced Wednesday during a news conference at the $1 billion arena.

The Islanders will keep their name and logo as they share the Barclays with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. The basketball team, which played in the Nassau Coliseum from 1972-77 in the heyday of Julius Erving, just moved from Newark, N.J., to the borough. AEG Facilities manages the arena.

“Brooklyn is big time, and now we have the big-league sports to prove it,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Wang said the Islanders will honor the remaining three years on its lease at the Nassau Coliseum, the league’s second-oldest arena (only the renovated Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, which opened in 1968, is older).

“The 2015-16 season will be our first here," said Wang, who made his fortune as the co-founder of computer firm CA Associates. He will continue to own 100 percent of the franchise.

Wang had tried unsuccessfully to build a new arena to replace the Coliseum since buying the Islanders in 2000. Barclays Center majority owner and developer Bruce Ratner noted that the owner had opportunities to move the team out of town; candidates included the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

“Charles got offers to move the team out of our state and very good offers, and he wouldn’t do that,” Ratner said.

The Islanders said they are already accepting deposits on season tickets.

The Islanders ranked 29th in attendance last season (only the league-owned Phoenix Coyotes sold fewer tickets), averaging a bit more than 13,000 fans. They are worth $149 million, well below the league average of $240 million, according to a 2011 Forbes survey.

The move to Brooklyn will surely inflate the value of the team, make it more attractive to potential free agent players and put it on a more level-playing field with their NHL neighbors, the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils.

Barclays Center has a seating capacity of about 14,500 for hockey, which would make it the smallest arena in the league. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he expects the building to increase its capacity for hockey. (It seats 18,000 for basketball.)

The Islanders were scheduled to play the first NHL game in the Barclays — an exhibition game against the Devils on Oct. 2 — but it was canceled because of the league’s collective bargaining dispute with the players. That dispute is threatening the NHL’s regular season.

Led by stars such as Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin and Mike Bossy, the Islanders captured four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980-83 but have not qualified for the playoffs since 2007.

The Nets make their Barclays regular-season debut when they host the New York Knicks on Nov. 1.