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Gary Bettman builds case that Barclays Center was bad fit for Islanders

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on May 29, 2017. Credit: AP / Gene J. Puskar

Gary Bettman didn’t mention the Islanders being out of the playoffs for two straight seasons. Or, specifically, the inability to maintain a quality ice surface.

But the NHL commissioner, speaking on WFAN on Tuesday afternoon, did say the Barclays Center “wasn’t built for hockey” when asked why hockey didn’t work in Brooklyn.

“Nassau Coliseum was done, they really couldn’t stay there anymore,” Bettman said. “Brooklyn was an opportunity to go to a new building, though it wasn’t built for hockey.”

The Islanders, who have spent the past three seasons at Barclays Center, have plans for a new arena at Belmont Park that co-owner Jon Ledecky said on Monday was on schedule to open in October 2021.

Next season, the Islanders will play 12 games at NYCB Live, the first of three seasons the team is planning to split its home games between the refurbished Coliseum and Barclays Center.

“Most of the fan base for the Islanders has been on Long Island, it’s always been Long Island’s team,” Bettman said. “If you’re from Long Island, getting [to Barclays Center], particularly during the week, isn’t the easiest thing to do.

“In the middle of all this, the Islanders were sold to Scott Malkin and his partners,” Bettman added. “I think Scott has been committed to the notion that the Islanders needed their own building that was hockey focused and in a place more accessible to Islanders’ fans.”

Bettman made one other point that potentially has relevance to the Islanders.

When asked whether the success of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights was good for the NHL, Bettman said, “It’s a testament to good management. We haven’t received any complaints from the other teams. If anything, my guess is some owners may be questioning their own management in terms of how their performance stacks up against this expansion team.”

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