NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the poor Barclays Center ice conditions that bothered Islanders players late in the regular season has been “improving.”
And deputy commissioner Bill Daly said “players were satisfied with the ice quality” during Games 3 and 4 of the Islanders’ first round series against Florida in Brooklyn.
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Bettman and Daly made their comments Friday afternoon before a group from Associated Press Sports Editors at the league’s Manhattan offices.
Barclays Center said it installed a temporary dehumidification system last month to address Islanders players’ complaints that the ice was too choppy. The arena also has been working with Dan Craig, the league’s ice expert, regarding the playing surface.
Bettman said that in the future Barclays Center can avoid booking non-hockey events such as concerts at the beginning of the NHL playoffs, which would give the arena time to replace the entire ice surface.
“Typically in the first year in a building there’s an adjustment period, and I think Barclays is going to be focused on how they book the building in the playoffs,” Bettman said. “Because my guess is, and this is purely a guess, if the building wasn’t being used, they probably would have ripped out the ice and put in a whole new sheet, but they didn’t have the time to do that.”
A Barclays Center spokesman declined to comment.
Daly blamed the issues with the ice to the change in weather.
Bettman attended Game 3 last Sunday night for the Islanders’ first playoff game in Brooklyn and said “the atmosphere was terrific.”
“I think from looking around, while we’ll all agree that building wasn’t built for hockey, Barclays has been doing a good, better job of making hockey fans feel comfortable,” Bettman said.
The arena has been sold out for both playoff games. Of the 15,795 seats, which is Barclays Center’s capacity for Islanders games, about 1,800 have obstructed views, according to Brett Yormark, CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, in an interview on WFAN before Game 3.
But Bettman said he doesn’t view Barclays Center’s seats through that prism.
“My understanding is that there are 15,000, give or take, good seats,” Bettman said. “That was always our understanding.
“Whatever the number that are obstructed, that’s irrelevant. The seats that are really important to us, the good 15,000, that’s the number we were told to anticipate.”
Bettman believes 15,000 “good seats” is an acceptable number for the Islanders because that’s more than they typically averaged at Nassau Coliseum.
Overall Bettman has been pleased with the Islanders’ first year in Brooklyn.
“Nobody loves change. You always have to adjust it,” he said. “Although sometimes you love change because they went to a better building. I mean they couldn’t have stayed in Nassau.”