The New York Islanders are moving to Brooklyn's Barclays Center, a building that wasn't designed for ice hockey. Is this going to work?
Barclays Center is awesome. Like, really freakin' awesome.
And if you didn't hear, the first event at the brand new, state-of-the-art home of the Brooklyn Nets was supposed to be a New York Islanders preseason game. The ongoing NHL lockout forced the cancellation of that game, but even without the scheduled test run, Charles Wang has opted to move his Isles to Brooklyn.
The team signed an "iron clad" 25-year lease with the arena late Tuesday, and it'll begin when they play their first regular season game at Barclays Center in the fall of 2015.
While the move is certainly disappointing to Islanders fans in Nassau County who had hoped the team would stay, it's hard not to realize the alternative -- no more New York Islanders and a new team in Quebec City, Seattle, Kansas City or elsewhere. Moving to Brooklyn might not be ideal for much of the existing Isles fan base, but a move 30 miles to the west is hardly the worst-case scenario. The team won't even change its name.
Here is the big problem, though: Barclays Center was not built for hockey. It was built primarily as a basketball arena that can also host concerts, and hockey very clearly wasn't taken into consideration in the planning for this place. As great and as technologically advanced it may be, Barclays Center might just be an awful place to watch a hockey game.
Why do we say that?
An NHL-sized ice rink simply does not fit on the floor at Barclays Center without removing a ton of seats. Gary Bettman said at Thursday's press conference that the current capacity is listed at 14,500 and discussions have already been held about getting that number up above 15,000, but the building will never fit more people than that. It's awkward.
Here's the seating chart from that previously-scheduled preseason game:
Click to enlarge if you must, but you can probably already imagine how awkward this place is going to be with a hockey rink inside. The center-hung scoreboard won't be center-hung at all; instead, it'll hang closer to the blueline. In upper bowl sections 203, 204, 228 and 229, there will be an obstructed view of the ice.
This seating chart doesn't even have the option for seats to be sold in sections 201, 202, 230 or 232. Nine of the 24 lower bowl sections will be unavailable, although a different seating chart on the Barclays Center website does look at least slightly better, with options for seating in all 24 lower bowl sections and tickets available in all upper bowl sections as well. Doesn't seem like they've solved the obstructed view problem in some of these spots, however.
In any case, the bottom line is that an NHL-sized ice rink doesn't fit comfortably on the floor at Barclays Center. The arena wasn't designed to hold a hockey rink. The league can say it's not a problem and they can call the arrangement "intimate," but we're going to wait and see for ourselves before taking their word on it.
Two KHL games are scheduled for Jan. 19 and 20 at the arena. That'll be our first glimpse of hockey at Barclays Center, and man, we hope it doesn't suck.