It’s a split decision.
The Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders announced on Friday that, if they qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2016, their first-round games will be played at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum and any subsequent rounds will be at Barclays Center.
The news release pointedly noted that the refurbished Coliseum and its capacity of 13,917 is too small for NHL standards.
So the team’s predominantly Long Island-heavy fan base has gotten somewhat of a playoff concession from the league. However, the NHL and Islanders will maximize their revenue potential at the bigger Brooklyn arena, which seats 15,795 for hockey and has 101 suites to the Coliseum’s 11.
The Islanders (34-17-6), who moved to Barclays Center in 2016, are splitting home games this season between the two buildings, playing 21 in Uniondale and 20 in Brooklyn. Their last regular-season game at Barclays Center is Saturday night against the Oilers and the final 12 home games will be at the Coliseum.
The team’s proposed new arena at Belmont Park is projected to open in time for the 2021-22 season. The Islanders plan to split games between the Coliseum and Barclays Center until then, though there has been speculation that the arrangement will be scrapped.
“Following consultation with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office, the New York Islanders and BSE Global have announced that should the Islanders qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs, any first-round home playoff games will take place at [the] Coliseum,” the team said in a release.
“Should the team qualify for further rounds of the playoffs, any home Islanders games will take place at Barclays Center, reflecting that the Nassau Coliseum does not qualify as an NHL major-league facility.
This agreement has been approved by the NHL, with the understanding that the scheduling of games will be in accordance with usual League practices.”
The Islanders are 11-6-2 at Barclays and 6-1-2 with six sellouts at the Coliseum. They have not had a sellout at Barclays this season, but all five playoff games over two rounds at Barclays in 2016 did sell out.
Still, there’s no hiding the Islanders’ preference for Long Island.
“You saw it the first game there,” defenseman Scott Mayfield said. “[Coach Barry] Trotz said it right away, that it’s worth at least 10 to 12 points [in the standings] just because of the atmosphere.”
“Logistically, the Coliseum works out a little bit easier for us,” right wing Jordan Eberle said. “The consensus here is guys like playing at the Coliseum. Wherever it may be, we’ve just got to be ready.”
But left wing Matt Martin added that Barclays’ significance to the organization can’t be overlooked.
“In some ways, Barclays Center has gotten a little bit of a bad rap,” he said. “It’s not the most convenient place in the world for hockey, but we didn’t have a home and we might not be in New York right now if it weren’t for that deal. As a fan base and as an organization, I think we need to be somewhat grateful for that building.
“But I do believe the Islanders are a Long Island-based team,” Martin added. “A lot of our fans are from Suffolk and Nassau Counties and Barclays Center is not the easiest place to get to during the week.”