Good Evening
Good Evening
SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Just accept the fact that the Isles will now switch from Nassau Coliseum to Barclays Center for the playoffs

Fan cheer after the Islanders scored a third-period

Fan cheer after the Islanders scored a third-period goal against the Oilers at Barclays Center on Feb. 16. Credit: Jim McIsaac

If this were a Disney movie — “The Mighty Pulocks”? “Miracle on (Bad) Ice”? “Slap Trotz”? — the Islanders would win 12 more games and hoist the Stanley Cup at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum come June.

The fresh coats of paint would peel off the place. Old fans and old Islanders would cry. Car horns would honk.

But this is not a movie, this is a business. And business dictates that the Barn door has closed for the season, and all remaining home playoff games will be played at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Do not blame the Islanders.

The league wants them at Barclays, which has 10 times as many suites, more seats, more restaurants, more communications infrastructure, more SUVs parked just off the ice. (Be nice; Brooklyn street parking is at a premium.)

Is it a bummer, a gray cloud on an otherwise bright, sunny, post-sweep-of-the-Penguins Wednesday? In a word: yes. Or, if you prefer: Yes! Yes! Yes!

If you feel conflicted, imagine how fans holding tickets for Game 5 felt. Root for the Islanders in Game 4, or risk damnation by rooting for them to lose and get a chance to clinch it in the Coliseum on Thursday? Hmm.

All that being said, the best thing fans can do at this stage is this: Deal with it.

The compromise that gave the Islanders one playoff round at the Coliseum was an upset to begin with, given the blunt kicker that came with the Feb. 15 announcement:

“Should the team qualify for further rounds of the playoffs, any Islanders home games will take place at Barclays Center, reflecting that the Nassau Coliseum does not qualify as an NHL major league facility.”


In other words, do not operate under any illusion the Islanders do not need a new arena in the Belmont parking lot, ASAP.

Back to the present. This is weird, yes. Even weirder because the Islanders have not played at Barclays since Feb. 16. And now they have to share the spotlight (and the game schedule) there with the equally surprising Nets.

But while the schlep is an inconvenience for most fans and for the players themselves, there is little evidence that Barclays is a competitive disadvantage.

The Islanders were 12-7-2 at the Coliseum in the regular season, plus 2-0 in the playoffs.

They were 12-6-2 at Barclays, where in 2016 they were 2-1 in a first-round series against the Panthers and 0-2 in the second round against the Lightning, with both losses in overtime.

John Tavares’ double-overtime game-winner in Game 6 against Florida was a raucous, memorable Barclays moment, so such a thing is possible.

Let’s turn to Matt Martin, fan favorite and the Islanders’ heart and soul, for his take on this, because it matters more than mine or yours.

“I played playoff series at the Barclays Center against the Panthers and the Lightning, and it was electric,” he told Newsday after the Islanders’ 3-1 clincher over Pittsburgh on Tuesday, a game in which he was credited with 11 (!) hits. “Our fans, they’ll be there. They’ll fill it up.

"Obviously, in the regular season it’s tough to come out on a Tuesday, Wednesday night, but our fans love this time of year and I have no doubt they’ll be bringing the noise, and we’re excited.

“Our fans are great. Like I said, playing the Panthers and the Lightning, that place was buzzing pretty good. So we’ll be there, and we need them.”

Changing at Jamaica is no one’s favorite life experience. But as Martin suggested, doing so on a Tuesday night in November is far different than in late April for a (possible) date with Alex Ovechkin and the reigning Cup champion Capitals, who lead their series with the Hurricanes, 2-1, heading into Thursday night's Game 4.

Like most compromises, this one is not perfect. But all things considered, it’ll do. So just enjoy the (train) ride!

New York Sports