The combination of a struggling team and an increasingly disinterested fanbase has led to some tough times for the New York Islanders. Perhaps as a result, the Uniondale-based team has seen its fair share of struggles over the past few seasons.
The Isles ranked dead last in attendance for the 2010-11 season, drawing just over 13,000 fans each game. Last year, New York ranked 29th in the league — only drawing more fans than the Phoenix Coyotes.
So it should come as no surprise that last October, the Islanders announced they would be moving to Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season.
A new arena (the Barclays Center) and an NBA partner (the Brooklyn Nets) to share with make Brooklyn seem like a good fit for the Islanders. However, with the highly successful New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils now in even closer proximity, many must be wondering if the move will work out in the end. The Rangers and Devils have solidified their own fanbases and recently met in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, while the Islanders have not made the playoffs since 2006-07.
Many cities throughout North America have been hungry for hockey for many years. Hartford, Conn., lost the Whalers in 1997 and have made various attempts to return hockey to the Nutmeg State. Events like the “Whale Bowl” show that there is still a lot of interest in hockey in the greater Hartford area.
Seattle has not seen professional hockey since the late 1960s, when the Totems called the city home. However, Seattle just found out that an NBA team will likely migrate its way up from Sacramento, which could spark interest in a new arena. With the closest team being the Canadian-based Vancouver Canucks, Seattle would love its own squad.
Similarly, Quebec City has not seen hockey since the Nordiques left town in 1995. The team cited a language barrier and a lack of fan support in comparison to the nearby Montreal Canadiens as reasons for departure. However, former Nordiques owner Marcel Abut says he feels “confident” that a team will return to Quebec City sooner rather than than later. With a rumored $400 million arena potentially being built, that could make a return from the NHL a strong possibility.
With all of these various destinations making their case, it also must be mentioned that the Islanders could always just stay put. They have been located in Uniondale since their inception in 1972. They also build a dynasty on Long Island in the early ’80s while winning four Stanley Cups. Unfortunately for the Islanders, fans seemed rather indifferent following the team’s announcement of a move.
Regardless of where the Islanders play, only one thing will bring fans back: winning hockey games. With a six-year postseason drought ongoing, the Islanders must turn it around. Luckily, there’s hope — they currently sit two points behind Tampa Bay for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Confernce.