A sparse crowd of 8,652 fans watched the Islanders lose for the 14th straight game Wednesday and come within one defeat of the franchise's record winless streak.
Dwindling attendance - the Islanders have drawn less than 10,000 the past three home games - has become a byproduct of the team's tailspin, now one shy of the 1972-73 expansion club's record of 15 games without a win (three ties).
Even before the losing streak, the Islanders had some ghastly turnouts. In seven home games this season, the Islanders have averaged 10,757 and haven't sold out. Not even the season opener or first matchup against the Rangers two days later managed to pack the old barn.
"There are a lot of ingredients as to why it is what it is," general manager Garth Snow said. "I think the building is some of it, but winning plays a part as well."
The team's outdated and decrepit building doesn't help, but the losing appears to be having the biggest impact on the attendance. The team's most paltry crowds - 8,025, 9,157 and 8,652 - have come during the team's slump. "It's the team, the product," said Mark Wells, 49, of Plainview. "It all comes down to winning and losing. Actually, it's about 80 percent winning and 20 percent of the other nonsense. And the arena has something to do with it."
Wells, who attends about 20 games a season, said a change in venue would help, but only short-term. "A new building would bring an increase briefly,'' he said, "but unless the team is winning, it won't last."
Team senior vice president Paul Lancey cited several reasons for attendance issues, including the facility, the recession and the time of year. But winning still seems to be the most important factor.
"Attendance has been off for a couple reasons, but the team's performance has been disappointing," Lancey said. "We never counted on our two best players going down before the season began. That hurts."
Lancey said group sales and sponsorships have increased, although those two areas do little to assuage the organization's concern about the situation.
"We're concerned every single game. Our goal is to fill the building," Lancey said. "A lot of people depend on it. In a lot of ways, the attendance is the fuel to the economic engine, so it's important."