11:35 am Oct. 24, 20121
It appears the Brooklyn Nets, whose move from New Jersey is now complete, have convinced another hard-times suburban franchise that there's more money to be made in Brooklyn.
The New York Islanders are expected to announce Wednesday afternoon that the franchise will be relocating to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, after their deal with the Nassau Coliseum runs out in 2014-15.
The move is an interesting one for several reasons. For one thing, the New York Post reports the Barclays Center can hold just 14,500 seats for hockey. That would make Barclays the smallest arena in the N.H.L., and limit the potential attendance ceiling for the new team.
Considering that last season, the Islanders drew 13,191 fans per game, that would mean even selling out the Barclays Center consistently wouldn't result in an enormous jump.
But the reality is that while last season's attendance represented the 29th-best mark in the N.H.L., it was also a three-year high for the Islanders. Just the season prior, they'd averaged 11,059 fans per game, easily worst in the league. And with Nassau County's decision not to approve $400 million in improvements to Nassau Coliseum, the team's ability to draw fans, and free agents, was significantly compromised.
The move to Brooklyn is also a leap of faith that the Nets can find a consistent audience with what will be an entirely new set of fans. The struggle is often posed as the Nets winning converts from the rabid Knicks' supporters, and a similar dynamic will likely be described with the Islanders and Rangers.
But that's not the proper construct, or even relevant comparison. The appropriate one is this: can the Nets, with Brooklyn as their geographical center, create a bigger fan base than they could have in New Jersey?
That question will start to be answered this season, but the Islanders have apparently seen enough to believe that the answer is yes. And they'll soon be engaged in a similar struggle; not to convert Rangers fans, but to create a new fan base, largely from scratch, in Brooklyn that they hope exceeds the limited one they managed to maintain in Nassau County.
The Nets will have few with more of a vested interest in seeing the team succeed than the Islanders. Essentially, the Nets will be both the proof the Islanders can pull off the trick, and the template for how to do so.