The decision to play the first round of the playoffs at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum is proof that Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky and BSE Global are working together to do what is best for fans because the lease calls for all playoff games to be played in Brooklyn, said Brett Yormark, CEO of BSE, which runs the Barclays Center and the Coliseum.
“It’s indicative of where this relationship is today,” Yormark said. “As a group we want what’s best for the fans, we want what’s best for the team. Kicking off the playoffs this year on Long Island just made so much sense.”
The Islanders and BSE have had their share of difficulties since the team moved to Brooklyn in 2015. The Islanders were not happy with how the team was being marketed in its new home, and players complained about the quality of the ice. Fans traveling from Long Island griped about the commute into and out of Brooklyn.
In 2018, the Islanders opted out of their 25-year lease with the Barclays Center and sought to build a new arena at Belmont Park, which is still in the environmental review stage and won’t be ready until at least the start of the 2021-22 season.
Islanders opted out in January 2018 and they renegotiated this new lease as part of that process.
With the help of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the Islanders and BSE agreed to an unusual deal to split their home games between Brooklyn and the Coliseum until the new arena is ready.
Yormark and Ledecky spoke with Newsday this week in advance of the return of the playoffs to Long Island and stressed that the first year of the agreement has gone smoothly.
“There’s no drama,” Ledecky said. "The way our organization is treated has been first class.”
Yormark said his focus is on improving the programming at Barclays Center and the Coliseum -- and the Islanders [and the NHL] have helped him do that this season by making the recently renovated Coliseum once again a go-to place for NHL hockey.
“Brett and his staff have put in a tremendous amount of hard work throughout the year, in both buildings, giving our team the best possible opportunity to have success,” Islanders president Lou Lamoriello said in a statement.
Of course, a new arena at Belmont Park would be in direct competition for programming with both Barclays Center and the Coliseum for programming.
“We never discuss Belmont,” Yormark said. “The Islanders have to do what’s in the best interest of their organization and fans and I’ve got to do what’s in the best interest of my ownership... I've never really thought of it in a competitive way.”
The Islanders averaged 13,514 at 21 games at the Coliseum, which holds 13,900. In Brooklyn, they averaged 11,248 at an arena that holds 15,795, including some seats that have obstructed views.
If the Islanders beat Pittsburgh in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, all remaining home games will be played in Brooklyn. Yormark said the Islanders' playoff victory in 2016 was one of the top moments in Barclays Center history. And Ledecky noted that the team had similar records in both home arenas this season. They were 12-7-2 at the Coliseum and 12-6-2 at Barclays.
The NHL also has been satisfied with how it's played out.
“I would say it was certainly unique and presented its challenges,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “But at the end of the day, and through the very significant efforts of the both of the parties, they made it work. And I think the result was good for Islanders fans.”
As for the future, both parties have stated repeatedly their preferences.
Yormark has said often he wants as many games as possible at the Coliseum, while Ledecky deflects questions to the NHL, which has said previously has to take into account the Coliseum’s lack of amenities commonly found in an arena that houses a pro team.
“That’s an NHL decision,” Yormark said. “I would assume it’s going to be consistent with what happened this year. But I would have to defer to the NHL.”
Daly, said: “I think it’s a little premature to answer any of those questions definitively.”
Besides, the Islanders, Ledecky said, are focused on the playoffs.
“Next season will be worked out with the league this summer, as it should be,” he said.
“We have come a long way,” he said. “We’ve grown together. And now we can enjoy the moment.”