The first official NHL game was played at the Barclays Center last Saturday as the New York Islanders hosted the New Jersey Devils in a preseason game. The crowd, which was a near sellout, was made up of roughly 76 percent fans from Long Island, according to the Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark, and everyone of them seemed to love the place even if they haven’t totally accepted the Islanders’ move yet.
“Even though we live out on Long Island now, we’re Brooklyn born and bred so there was no way in the world we were going to miss this,” Gary DeGeorge said immediately after getting off the Long Island Rail Road. “The train ride was fine. We’ll keep coming back when they move here.”
“I didn’t mind the train ride, but I’d still prefer the 15 minute car ride though,” Vita DeGeorge added.
Others saw the train ride as an opportunity to pregame a little sooner. “The train right was easy, a 45-minute ride straight in. It’s good if you want to have a drink or two and you don’t have to worry about driving back,” Paul Belluardo said.
A few Islanders fans coming from New Jersey explained that by taking the train into Manhattan and the subway from there, while it wasn’t completely easier, at least helped to avoid traffic. “Coming from Jersey, sometimes if you didn’t leave by 4:00 then there was no way you could make a 7:00 game,” Dr. John McHugh said.
“It’s not a lot quicker, but it’s better than if we had to go to Atlanta,” Frank Dacosta added.
The Barclays Center was built primarily for basketball and concerts so there was some concern that the arena would not be ideal for hockey, but once they were inside the building fans seemed to think it was perfect.
“This is better for hockey than the coliseum is,” said Charlie McAnulla. “It has good sight lines, the seats are close to the action and the atmosphere is great. That was the big problem with the coliseum recently, the atmosphere stinks. It’s much better here and the food is better too.”
The only concern, “The ceiling is kind of high so it won’t be as loud,” Adam Demaio added.
Of course, the few Islanders fans that are Brooklyn natives absolutely loved the place.
“It’s right in my backyard so this is amazing,” said Nick Giamarino. “Not to mention that this neighborhood was a s–t hole 18 years ago. Now you can easily take the train in, get a decent lunch, and watch a Nets or Islanders game. All right in your backyard. It doesn’t get much better.”
Out of the fans I spoke with that had season tickets out in Long Island, all of them said that they expected to keep their season tickets even after the move.
“What a nice place with nice people,” Patrick Dowd said. “I don’t have a bad thing to say about it. I absolutely love it and I will be back. It’s only an hour away door-to-door which is nothing. The Islanders might have moved, but they’re still close.”