The Islanders' move to Brooklyn is a complicated logistical undertaking, but it also is a sensitive one as they seek both to honor their history and retain the customers who have been part of it.
To that end, the team on Tuesday announced a series of initiatives designed to ease the transition and make everyone feel at home. That includes obvious ones such as hanging the four Stanley Cup banners and retired jerseys in the Barclays Center rafters and retaining the team's logo, name and colors.
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But it also will feature touches such as keeping public-address announcer Roger Luce, giving the Blue and Orange Army fan group a new home in Section 229 and naming Clark Gillies, Mike Bossy, Bobby Nystrom and Butch Goring franchise ambassadors as part of a Legends Group.
"I use social media, and fans are very adamant and very crystal clear about what they're looking for as they continue to be fans of the Islanders as the team transitions to Brooklyn," said Brett Yormark, CEO of Barclays Center and the Nets, and the man in charge of the Islanders' business operations. "We're taking that very seriously . . . During the course of the year, we spent a lot of time going to games [at Nassau Coliseum] to better understand the traditions of Islander hockey and see which should come with the team to Brooklyn."
"One of the things we wanted to do is reiterate again, because I think fans are still concerned, that the Islanders will keep their iconic logo as well as their primary home and road jerseys. We will probably introduce some kind of inaugural season patch to put on the jersey just to memorialize and celebrate the first season in Brooklyn. But outside of that, whatever uniforms they've seen on Long Island they'll see in Brooklyn as far as the primary home and away jerseys.
"The banners of the team's four Stanley Cup championships and the retired Islander jersey numbers will hang as permanent fixtures at the Barclays Center and will pay tribute to the rich history of Islanders hockey, because we obviously want people to come into the building for preseason games and opening night and feel like boy, nothing has really changed. Maybe the address has changed but the feeling you get hasn't."
Yormark said he hosted a lunch with past Islanders greats earlier this spring during which he and his staff explained what they were after, and "it was nothing short of terrific . . . You will see the legends at games, in the community and providing us with guidance and input as we transition the Islanders to Brooklyn, which we're really excited about."
So far, only full season tickets have gone on sale to the public. But based on early results, Yormark said 25 percent of sales have come from Nassau and Suffolk, second only to the 33 percent from Brooklyn. (Manhattan was third at 21 percent.)
The vast majority of that 25 percent are current season-ticket holders who have renewed rather than new subscribers.
"Candidly, we're thrilled with the number," Yormark said. "I didn't think it was going to be that big of a number."
He credited the Islanders' strong season in 2014-15 and seemingly bright near future, and also acceptance of the Long Island Rail Road as an option for traveling to games.
"I'm just thrilled that so many Long Islanders have decided to come to Brooklyn," he said. "I expect more to come as we continue our marketing this summer."
Yormark said the team and LIRR will partner on service enhancements to be announced this summer.
Yormark declined to say how many tickets have been sold, but he said the figure is "substantially more" than the Islanders had sold at this stage either of the past two seasons.
"We expect it to be sold out every night and if not, close to it," he said. "We played at 97- percent capacity with the Nets . . . I certainly expect it to be on par with the Nets, if not better, especially in the first year."
The team has not announced a new radio partner yet, but Yormark is aiming for a far larger station than the incumbent, Hofstra's WRHU-FM. "I think it's fair to say that's probably not a place we'll end up," he said of the college station.
Yormark said the biggest remaining project is a home locker room that should be completed by August. The team is discussing whether to start games at 7 or 7:30 p.m.
"I'm thrilled on where we are," he said. "The transition's gone great; it's better than I thought it would be."
"We really drafted behind the success of the Islanders, and I think candidly, the Rangers have helped us because they've helped to raise the awareness of the NHL and professional hockey in the New York marketplace and that's just good for all of us.
"We just have to make sure we're very aggressive in the next couple of months before the season opens in October and take advantage of the momentum that we have and I think if we can do that, we're going to be in great shape for the season. So far, so good."