By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Before the Brooklyn Nets could even hit the hardwood for their first-ever regular-season game at the Barclays Center, the New York Islanders announced Wednesday afternoon that they were moving in to the state-of-the-art arena in 2015.
The relocation of the franchise from Nassau County to our fair borough is a natural fit, as Islanders owner Charles Wang grew up in Brooklyn and attended Brooklyn Tech High School.
After years of trying in vain to get a new arena deal in Uniondale, N.Y., Wang couldn't resist the opportunity to bring his struggling franchise to the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in the hopes of elevating its profile in the tri-state area, and luring new fans to the organization with one of the lowest yearly attendance averages in the NHL.
Ironically, the Nets are scheduled to play the Knicks at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum Wednesday night in their preseason finale leading up to the renewal of the East River Rivalry in the regular-season opener Nov. 1 at Barclays, which will mark the official return of big-time pro sports to Brooklyn for the first time in 55 years.
The Islanders were scheduled to grace the ice at Barclays on Oct. 2 against the New Jersey Devils in an exhibition contest, but the ongoing NHL lockout cancelled that contest, but couldn't stop the four-time Stanley Cup champions (1980-83) from announcing their desire to move into Brooklyn as soon as their lease at the Coliseum expires in three years.
As currently structured, the Barclays Center will hold up to 14,500 fans for hockey, the lowest seat availability in the league, but Barclays CEO Brett Yormark and Downtown developer Bruce Ratner have not-so-secretly longed to bring the Islanders here in the hopes of bolstering the arena's bourgeoning profile as the epicenter of Brooklyn sports.
NHL commisioner Gary Bettman, who remained committed to keeping the team on Long Island in recent years, has given his blessing to the move, which is sure to elevate the already historic rivalry between the Islanders and New York Rangers, much the way the Knicks-Nets feud has been bolstered since Ratner and Co. orchestrated the franchise's relocation from New Jersey.
Check out previous Eagle stories on the Islanders' move to Brooklyn: