Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

Let's first state the obvious: Yes, it was strange, is strange and will continue to be strange.

After more than four decades situated in a parking lot in the heart of Nassau County, the Islanders played Friday night in the cacophonous heart of Brooklyn, a move more momentous than mere miles can calculate.

The fact that all concerned had 1,080 days to get used to the idea did nothing to change that reality. But here they are, in a basketball borough in a basketball building retrofitted into a sort-of NHL arena.

None of which is to say it is all bad.

It's just . . . well, this is going to take some getting used to, if that is even possible.

Before the Islanders' 3-2 overtime loss to the Blackhawks, the folks at Barclays Center did what they could to welcome fans, even though CEO Brett Yormark was booed when he appeared on the scoreboard to do so.

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The pregame video presentation began with images of Nassau Coliseum -- big cheers! -- and was followed by a tribute to the late Islanders coaching icon Al Arbour.

Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Billy Smith and Bobby Nystrom were introduced.

And when John Tavares -- who else? -- scored the team's first Brooklyn goal, the familiar Coliseum goal horn sounded, not the subway-themed one planned before a public outcry. It was followed by the familiar "Yes! Yes! Yes!'' cheer.

Other Long Island touches included the Coliseum's public address announcer, organist, longtime radio play-by-play man Chris King and Jiggs McDonald, the TV announcer during the glory days.

McDonald, who called the first game at the Coliseum in 1972 as the Flames' announcer, planned to be at the inaugural game in Brooklyn regardless.

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Then, as the Mets kept winning, he realized he might be asked to fill in for Howie Rose while Rose was busy calling baseball playoff games on radio.

"I said, 'You know what, somebody else is going to pay for my trip to Brooklyn!' '' he said, laughing. "And here I am, sure enough."

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who originally had intended to attend, was unable to make it, but owner-for-now Charles Wang was there.

"You can't describe it; it's a wonderful feeling," he said after dropping the ceremonial first puck. "Look at this arena. Unbelievable! Everything is what we wanted to do in Nassau County and on Long Island; everything we wanted to do."

For all of the arena's much-discussed quirks, including an off-center scoreboard, people sitting in seats behind a goal they could not see and low-for-the-NHL capacity, there was no disputing the modern niceties compared to the Coliseum.

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The wide concourses and even wider array of food options were something right out of the 21st century!

"I think it's like anything else; you start to adapt to the little idiosyncrasies of any arena, and they become your own," Wang said. "I think people will get to that. The important thing is we have hockey here, NHL hockey."

"You know me. I'm a New Yorker, and first a Long Islander. The only reason I bought the team was not to have them move. We're still in New York."

The fan vibe was as mixed as you would expect: enthusiasm for the team, but with an understandable undercurrent of crankiness and resentment.

Some of the fans chanted "We want Ice Girls" when snow-shovelers who were not the Ice Girls did their work.

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Afterward, Tavares lamented that the ice did not hold up well, but he liked the rest, saying: "I think the atmosphere was great. I think our fans were into it, behind us like always, certainly brought that tradition over from the Coliseum . . . It'll just take some getting used to."

McDonald said a new arena in Nassau would have been ideal but that this surely beat alternatives such as Kansas City, Quebec City or Seattle.

"It's in the state of New York," he said. Still, he noted, "It's very strange."