NEW YORK, N.Y. – The result of the New York Islanders’ preseason game at the Barclays Center on Saturday night was secondary to the initial impression the arena left on the team and its fans.
“It was great,” New York coach Jack Capuano said after the Islanders lost 3-0 to the New Jersey Devils in the first NHL game played in the Barclays Center.
Cory Schneider made 26 saves, Jacob Josefson scored the first NHL goal in Barclays Center history at 10:14 of the first period, and Patrik Elias and Steve Bernier added goals for New Jersey.
Evgeni Nabokov made 22 saves for New York.
The first NHL game played in Brooklyn drew a crowd of 14,689. Barclays Center holds 15,813 for hockey, although Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark envisions adding “100-300” seats as part of a “West End Club.” Barclays seats 17,732 for college basketball and the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, and holds 19,000 for concerts.
“When you sell over 13,000 for a preseason game, we’re thrilled,” Yormark said. “We know we can sell hockey in Brooklyn. Twenty-six per cent of (the) ticket buyers are from Brooklyn.”
The Islanders will officially move into $1 billion arena before the 2015-16 season.
Saturday night’s exhibition game was a trial run to introduce the year-old building to fans, and Yormark said the response he received was overwhelmingly positive.
“I walked every area of the building,” he said. “I was stopped (by fans who said), ‘Brett, we love the building. Brett, we love the building.'”
Yormark’s words were echoed by Islanders fans used to the 41-year-old Nassau Coliseum.
“Great, beautiful building,” said Frank Smarra, a self-proclaimed lifelong Islanders fan from Astoria, Queens. “(It is) clean, roomy. (It) generates a lot of excitement.
“(It’s) a whole new slate for the organization. I think things are finally falling into place.”
Smarra said the “45-minute” subway ride from Queens to Brooklyn was easy compared to driving and paying for parking at Nassau Coliseum. One of the Barclays’ selling points is its convenience, as 11 New York City bus and subway lines stop there, as does the Long Island Rail Road.
When he spoke with reporters following the Islanders practice session at Barclays on Sept. 12, team owner Charles Wang reiterated that his team has a lease at the Nassau Coliseum for the next two seasons, but did not reject the notion of his team playing regular-season games in Brooklyn next year. While acknowledging he had to have discussions with team and building officials, Yormark did not dismiss the idea of Barclays playing host to regular-season games next season.
“I have to sit with Charles (and) Bruce Ratner after (the game) tonight,” Yormark said. “(But the) building is ready to be a host NHL venue.”
New York defenceman Travis Hamonic agreed.
“But this obviously is going to be our home for a long time. So in my opinion the more games we play here (will be) awesome,” Hamonic said. “We’re looking forward to it. It’s a great building, an unreal atmosphere and a great spot. So we’re going to be here for years to come.”