Hockey This Week | Islanders This Week | By Paul C. Cuthbert | New York Islanders Tickets | Islanders RSVP
Is The Islanders Fanbase Dead?
I’ve covered and attended a ton of Islanders, Rangers games at the Nassau Coliseum and there has always been a sold out mix of both Fanbases when the Blueshirts head out east. It’s been commonplace and a lot of fun to experience over the years but last night I noticed a disturbing change.
The place was literally blanketed with NYR dark blue jerseys in the stands from east to west, from north to south. I mean, you could not find any orange or white or light blue colors in the stands in any significant numbers. Last night was an absolute home game for the New York Rangers. From the cheap seats at the top, right down to ice level, it was all Rangers faithful. Just watch the highlight of Gaborik’s OT winner and see and hear the crowd reaction.
I would love to see the ticket exchange numbers for last nights game. If there were Islanders season tickets holders in the building, they must have all been up in the luxury boxes. It was that bad. I mistakenly thought after 2 straight wins, having arguably one of the best centers in the NHL on your squad and a chance to catch the Rangers in the standings, Islanders fans would represent. Not so.
Maybe it’s economics, maybe folks are still too banged up from Sandy, maybe it was the snow forecast. Or maybe, Islanders fans and hockey fans in general on Long Island, are done with this franchise.
You know, the new arena vote really did not draw a lot of people out last summer when you consider the population of Long Island. The original Lighthouse project tanked and really did not stir up any real support. Corporate sponsorship and the Islanders Business Club is basically non-existent.
There are no alumni ambassadors from the incredible four time Stanley Cup Championship teams around to showcase how amazing the franchise used to be and share the story of the success it formerly had. No former players from the 90′s are around and DiPietro, the last of the early 2000′s squads has been banished to the minors.
The New York Islanders Booster club boasts 363 likes on it’s fan page. The Islanders Official Facebook Fan page ranks 28th out of 30 teams just ahead of Phoenix, Columbus, Florida and the now defunct Atlanta Thrashers - http://fanpagelist.com/category/sports-teams/nhl/view/list/sort/fans/page2
The soul of this once proud franchise has been gutted and very soon will be boxed up and shipped west to Brooklyn. Whatever fans are left, may not be joining them, especially after what I saw last night against the biggest rival, in what used to be the “biggest game in town.”
I don’t blame the players or the team staff. They are working incredibly hard to be competitive with the resources they have in an incredibly talented league.
I am simply disappointed and honestly angry at what has happened to The New York Islanders. Being a Long Islander and a huge advocate of the game, to see the Island’s cornerstone franchise with such a glorious history peddled off to an unimportant existence is just a cryin’ shame. There are so many good hockey people and fans out here on the Island. What a waste of a pro-team on it’s community.
Let’s be honest here. If it wasn’t for the fact that a few talented veteran Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers were available at the trade deadline in the spring of 1994 and a goal post stopped a tying goal by Nathan LaFayette with six minutes to go in the 3rd period of game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the New York Rangers might still be without a cup for 73 years.
One cup in 73 years isn’t much to brag about to be honest but the Rangers organization has to be applauded for maintaining stability, staying connected with it’s fans and keeping former champions and alumni out front as ambassadors for the franchise and the game.
The Rangers never went to five straight Stanley Cup Finals. They never won four in a row. The Islanders have the better resume but not the same support or advocacy.
I applauded the recent deal to move the Islanders to Brooklyn. I feel it was necessary and would be better for the organization and Fanbase but for the first time last night it dawned on me that the fans are not going to be joining the move west. Some yes but not all or not in any significant numbers.
The Islanders are going to have to develop and grow an entire new Fanbase in Brooklyn and they are going to have to do it by winning quickly and winning often or the Barclays Center is going to just be another empty state of the art facility for hockey games when the Rangers are not on the schedule.
Oddly enough, the Isles will be back to square one in Brooklyn just as they were in 1972 when they arrived first on Long Island.
Hey Isles fans, stick around a little longer. Remember what happened not long after back then?
Paul C. Cuthbert
Follow Paul on Twitter @pcuthbert_htw