It was the latest shot across the bow in the Islanders ongoing arena battle.
As the Islanders was on their way to a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday night, Bruce Ratner, the man behind building the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and minority owner of the Nets, was on hand to catch the game. During the first intermission he found his way to the press box for a three-minute interview with Howie Rose on the Islanders telecast.
Now, it was by no means an accident that Ratner found himself in front of the MSG cameras Thursday night.
With the season winding down attention will be headed back towards the team's continued need for a new arena. In comes Ratner, who just happens to be building a brand new arena that the Islanders will be playing a preseason game in this October. Not to mention the continued desire by the borough to lure the Isles west.
“I hope it sends a clear message to Islanders owner Charles Wang that Brooklyn is the only place they should consider moving the team... the Islanders belong in Brooklyn” Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Borough President, told Islanders Hockey Blog back in January.
Ratner’s message was the importance of keeping the Islanders in New York.
“My real goal is to make sure the Islanders stay in New York,” he said during the MSG interview. “If they wind up building a new arena here, that would be great. If that winds up not happening we’d love to have them at the Barclays Center. I’m a civic person; we need to keep the Islanders here, that’s what’s really important. New York needs the Islanders.”
Two of the biggest concerns with the Barclays Center have been transportation and how the sightlines will be for hockey.
The Barclays Center is located amongst dozens of bus and subway lines that bring you right to the arena. Plus, the Long Island Rail Road stops at the Atlantic terminal, which is right across the street from the arena, and fans would only have to make a change at Jamaica if need be. Ratner also said that there were about eight-to-ten parking lots around the arena, although those would most likely be privet lots that would cost a bundle. And that’s why public transportation would be the better and more convenient option for fans.
However, some fans still find it outrages to think they’d have to take a train to see an Islanders game or that it would hurt attendance. It’s hard to see it that way since the Mets, Yankees, Jets, Giants, Rangers and Knicks all count on fans utilizing public transportation to get to their games.
The larger issue of course is the sightlines for hockey. Barclays was built primarily with basketball in mind, but Ratner says that it’s still a great hockey venue.
“First of all, it’s a very tightly built arena,” he explained. “Sightlines will be very, very close. You’ll feel like you’re right on top of the action. On the other hand it was primarily built for basketball, therefore there will be some seats that will not be as good, but you’ll still have 14,000 or 15,000 seats that will have perfect views.”
The biggest test of course will be the October 2 preseason game against the Devils.
But it’s interesting to note that the KHL announced plans earlier this month to host several games in the new Brooklyn arena. The KHL is one of the top professional hockey leagues in the world and they would not just hastily commit to playing a game, especially in the United States, without doing some research on the arena to make sure it was suitable for hockey.
Of course there are other suitors for Islanders. Cities like Québec City, Hamilton, Seattle and of course Kansas City are among the places that would welcome the Islanders with welcome arms. But locally it’s been Brooklyn that has been showing the Islanders a lot of love.
There are still plenty of questions to be answered when it comes to the Isles in Brooklyn. Economically for Islanders owner Charles Wang it may not work out in his favor, but the details are still very blurry. Ratner said he believes Wang would still like to get an arena done on Long Island, but if it became impossible to do then they’d start seriously discussing the Barclays Center as a permanent home. If they haven’t already.
The Islanders have three years left on their lease at Nassau Coliseum and this will not be the last subtle hint the team tries to send Nassau County that they have other options and that time is running out.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.