The Islanders rank next-to-last in the NHL with an average of 12,157 in paid attendance per game after the first 11 games in their new Brooklyn home.
They are ahead of only the Carolina Hurricanes' 11,227 per-game average in the 30-team league. They also are third from last in average percentage of capacity at 76.9, ahead of only the Hurricanes (60.1) and Florida Panthers (75.3). Barclays Center's hockey capacity is listed at 15,795.
Monday's 5-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes marked the seventh time in 11 home dates the Islanders have drawn fewer than 12,000.
In the team's final season at Nassau Coliseum in 2014-15, the Islanders were averaging 13,842 after 11 games. The team finished the season averaging 15,334 per game, which ranked 25th in the NHL. The team's average percentage of capacity last season was 94.8 percent. Those figures were helped by the team's success and the fans' desire to say goodbye to the Coliseum.
The Islanders have faced challenges with the move to Brooklyn, including marketing the team to new fans in the five boroughs, luring existing fans from Long Island, and the logistics of playing hockey in an arena built primarily for basketball.
Brett Yormark, CEO of Barclays Center, which handles the Islanders' business operations, acknowledged there is room for improvement.
"The area we continue to work at is ticket sales," he said. "Am I pleased with playing at 77 percent capacity and at 12.1 [thousand]?" Yormark said. "I'm fine with that. I'm never satisfied. My personality is I'm relatively a happy person, but never satisfied. I want more, and we're going to be aggressive in getting more."
Yormark said tickets are one aspect of a larger financial picture in which private suite sales are ahead of budget projections and sponsorships are on target. He said suites have been selling not only on a long-term basis, but for nightly rentals to those sampling the product, and that sponsorships from major companies have far exceeded anything in the Islanders' Nassau County past.
Yormark said he will continue to market the team heavily in Brooklyn and the other boroughs and listen to fans about how to improve the experience. But he thinks some of the slow attendance start likely will take care of itself over time.
Most NHL teams' worst months for attendance are October and November, and the Islanders' autumn was complicated by five home games that conflicted with Mets playoff games.
There have been relatively few games against marquee opponents so far, but three of the next four home games are against the Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers and Rangers, who figure to generate the first sellout since the opener. The Islanders are currently seven points behind the Rangers for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
"Good opponents drive interest and drive sampling," Yormark said.
There have been some bumpy moments during the transition, during which Yormark said he has been as sensitive as possible to fans' concerns over moving Islanders traditions west.
One dustup that turned nasty on social media involved a new goal horn that replaced the one used at the Coliseum with a subway-inspired sound. That did not last long.
"I have to be honest with you: The fans have been great to me," Yormark said. "I walk around the concourse and I can't tell you how many fans come up to me, the fans who are season-ticket holders, and thank us for the hard work, thank us for listening, thank us for responding."
Yormark said he has been pleased with the number of people arriving via Long Island Rail Road, an average of more than 5,000 per game.
Long Island-based fans have had a wide range of reactions to the move, from embracing it to giving up on going to games altogether to somewhere in between.
After the first period Monday, several members of the raucous "Blue and Orange Army" headquartered in Section 229 expressed cautious optimism that more of their fellow fans would show up eventually.
"You have to think about it: It's a new arena, it's a whole new setup," Will Teese of St. James said. "The biggest thing for the team is they need to market to Brooklyn, to Queens, to Manhattan. It takes time. That doesn't happen overnight."
Teese said he knows Long Islanders are coming, because trains from Jamaica, Queens, are "packed" before and after games. "That's easy to see," he said. "The question is: How many people are coming from the surrounding area?"
His friend, Tom LoFaso of Levittown, said things should improve once people hear from friends that the trip is relatively painless -- and also are reassured that the view from most seats is not as poor as they might have heard.
"That's what I think a lot of people's fears are -- that they're not going to see anything," LoFaso said. "We have an obstructed view, but we're missing a little bit of the corner, and that's it.
"We can still see both nets and we can actually see the scoreboard, where at the Coliseum we had the Stanley Cup banners in the way. It's weird being able to see replays and stuff."
The limited and obstructed views of the ice are because the arena was designed for the smaller dimensions of a basketball court.
Another member of their group, Tom Manno of Syosset, said he still considers the Blue and Orange Army "family," but he no longer has season tickets.
During the Coliseum era, he could arrive so early that parking lot attendants were not yet in place to charge for the privilege, then enjoy his own beverages and food in the lot before the game.
"It was $20 for the whole day, and now it is $20 alone for the train ride," he said. "I have to pick and choose. I hate the fact that's what I have to do, and I think that's going on with a lot of people."
The Brooklyn experience remains a learning process even for those willing to give it a try.
When Chris Senkus of West Babylon got off a train from Jamaica wearing a replica Tavares jersey and appearing to be uncertain where to go before his first Islanders game in Brooklyn, a stranger named Keith Wilcha helpfully pointed him in the right direction. Wilcha, from Merrick, was wearing a Tavares jersey, too.
On one hand, Wilcha said he enjoys the fact that he can come directly from his job in lower Manhattan. On the other hand, if he wants to bring his three children, he must face significant logistic hurdles.
"At least I can root for a team I like instead of them being somewhere else, Kansas City or Quebec or whatever," he said. "It is what it is, and you have to adjust to it . . . You can't pass up a hockey game. We're a cult."
That is the kind of attitude Yormark is counting on. But he must keep spreading the word to recruit new members.
"We're doing a lot of community outreach in Brooklyn, specifically to get people excited about hockey and sample it," he said. "Our third jersey now is the third-best seller in the league and that casual fan is wearing it and I think that's the first step: Wear something that's hip and cool and then hopefully you sample it by coming to a game.
"So I think it's all working for us. But as I said, I'm happy but not satisfied, and I know we'll get better."
The Islanders ranked 29th in average NHL attendance through Monday's games
30. Hurricanes: 11,227
29. Islanders: 12,157
28. Panthers: 12,831
27. Coyotes: 13,368
26. Devils: 13,602
The Islanders ranked 28th in average NHL capacity percentage through Monday's games
30. Hurricanes: 60.1
29. Panthers: 75.3
28. Islanders: 76.9
27. Devils: 77.2
26. Coyotes: 78.1
The Islanders' full-season attendance rank and averages in their final six seasons at Nassau Coliseum:
2014-15: 25th, 15,334
2013-14: 26th, 14,740
2012-13, 30th, 13,306
2011-12, 29th, 13,191
2010-11, 30th, 11,059
2009-10, 29th, 12,735
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