Saturday, September 21, 2013 marked the first ever NHL game at the future home of the New York Islanders, the Barclays Center. Changes are coming for the New York Islanders, this past season the team made their first playoff appearance in the past seven years, John Tavares was recently named the Franchise’s fourteenth captain, and finally, the team will be moving to the Barclays Center for the start of the 2015-2016 season.
The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (known by fans as “The Coliseum” or “The Coli”) has been the venue the New York Islanders have called home since their inception in 1972. To many Islanders fans “The Coliseum” is home.
As many NHL teams began to build new arenas, Nassau Coliseum quickly earned the reputation of having one of the worst locker rooms in hockey according to players. Team owner, Charles Wang knew that without updated facilities the team would have a hard time attracting big name players who could help the team get out of their rut. A proposal was put in place for residents of Nassau County to vote on a new design plan for the Nassau Coliseum, the proposal failed and so the team was forced to look for other options. Although the team had previously said no to the Barclay’s Center it was now the only option if the team wanted to stay in the area.
Fast forward to Summer 2013, after months of hype and build up, finally Islanders fans were given a glimpse at the team’s future home via the seating chart on Ticketmaster when tickets for this past Saturday’s game were put on sale. Needless to say there were many signs that this might not be a good fit.
Upon entering the arena, which when set up for hockey holds only 15,813 it is evident that this is not a venue built for hockey, but rather a venue with a hockey arena crammed into it. The first problem is the fact that there are no seats right behind the goals on both, the attack and defensive zone sides. The rink side seats only wrap around three quarters of the way around the rink. The seats that are surrounding the rink have a barricade in front of them and so in order for spectators to bang on the boards they must stand up and reach over the railing.
On the defensive zone side there are no rink side seats at all, so the goal is backed by a black curtain and empty space. On the attack zone side there is a tunnel leading to the locker rooms right behind the goal and so again, the amazing seats right behind the goal don’t exist in this arena. In addition to no goal seats, there are very few seats available in the higher sections in back of the goals, these areas are occupied by press areas, handicapped seating, and boxed seating, leaving one of the most desired vantage points practically unavailable to fans.
The arena also has partial view seats. These seats will apparently be offered at discounted prices during games with good reason, when seated in these sections you are unable to see the goal unless you turn your body 180 degrees. Since the Barclays center was originally intended to only host the Brooklyn Nets and concerts, the area was not set up for hockey and as a result, the scoreboard is not lined up with center ice, it hangs off to the right slightly and while this does not have an impact on the viewing of the game, it is not aesthetically pleasing.
Aside from structural problems with the arena, the staff did not know the norms of a hockey game. The staff did not allow fans to go down to watch pre-game warm ups and they did not let people wait for a stoppage of play to go to their seats. These are issues that can be worked on by the time the Islanders move to the arena in two years.
As a fan, I am not looking forward to the move. I feel that Barclays is not fit for hockey, there are too many things that are wrong structurally with the arena and will prevent people from getting close to action and enjoying the game. I am curious to see what, if any action will be taken by Barclays in response to the negative feedback the venue is receiving from fans. Only time will tell, until then I will be enjoying the last two seasons of New York Islanders Hockey at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Below is a link to an album featuring all of my pictures from the arena!