The Islanders might be returning full-time to Long Island a bit sooner than anticipated.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York visited Nassau Coliseum earlier than Saturday’s sport between the Islanders and the Boston Bruins to announce that the group would play at its unique residence on this spring’s playoffs and full-time subsequent season earlier than an anticipated transfer to a brand new area at Belmont Park for the 2021-22 season.
“I’m proud to announce this iconic sports franchise will be coming home for good — one year ahead of schedule,” Cuomo mentioned.
The Islanders cut up their residence schedule between arenas in Brooklyn and Long Island in New York this yr and final after three seasons at Barclays Center, the place they moved after the 2014-15 season. They had performed at Nassau Coliseum since their inaugural marketing campaign in 1972-73.
Cuomo was joined by the N.H.L. Commissioner Gary Bettman and the Islanders co-owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin to make the announcement. Cuomo had publicly requested Bettman to enable the group to return on an interim foundation to Nassau Coliseum, which, after renovations, seats just below 14,000 for hockey. Now they are going to be again in Nassau County for good.
“I’m overjoyed,” added Cuomo, who grew up in close by Queens. “The Islanders should be in Long Island. When they moved to Brooklyn, I felt the air come out of the balloon. It was not right, not the way it was supposed to be.”
Next season is anticipated to be their final on the Coliseum earlier than the group strikes to Belmont Park. The Islanders’ final sport at Barclays Center might be March 22 towards Carolina.
In January 2018, Cuomo announced that the team would return part-time to Nassau Coliseum before its new home at Belmont was ready. In the 2018-19 season, the Islanders played about half of their home games on Long Island (21) and half at Barclays Center (20). This season’s planned breakdown was 28 at Nassau Coliseum and 13 at Barclays Center.
“This has been our home forever,” Anders Lee, the Islanders’ captain, said. “We love playing here.”
The Islanders announced in December 2017 that the state’s top development agency, Empire State Development, had accepted their proposal for an 18,000-seat arena adjacent to the Belmont Park grandstand.
The new arena will host at least 41 Islanders games a season. A 400,000-square-foot retail village and a hotel are also part of the $1 billion project, which broke ground in September.
While the Coliseum had the loud caldron-like charm it had when the Islanders won the Stanley Cup four times in the 1980s, it lacked the amenities of Barclays Center, which opened in 2012. But the Brooklyn arena was an odd fit for hockey since it was built for the N.B.A.’s Nets.
The Islanders moved after the previous majority owner, Charles Wang, failed to persuade Nassau County voters to approve his Lighthouse Project, which included plans for a new arena.
Yet sharing Barclays Center with the Nets was problematic. There are hundreds of obstructed-view seats, and there were frequent complaints about the quality of the ice.
Fans also were not showing up in strong numbers. The Islanders were near the bottom in league attendance during their seasons in Brooklyn, though they did reach the second round of the playoffs in 2016 in their first season there.
About $6 million in state-funded upgrades brought Nassau Coliseum back up to minimum league standards to permit the Islanders’ return, though Bettman said the key was the fact the team would soon have a modern arena of its own.
“None of this matters without Belmont,” Bettman said on Saturday. “I don’t even want to even have to contemplate what the alternative would have been.”