By Chris Vaccaro
The New York Islanders are Brooklyn’s team now. After 43 years of playing games at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the franchise opened the season in its new digs 30 miles west at Barclays Center.
The Islanders welcomed the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks to their housewarming, and ultimately lost the first regular season NHL game on Atlantic Avenue, 3-2, in overtime Friday night before an announced sellout crowd of 15,795.
Patrick Kane scored two goals for Chicago, including a power play tally in overtime to ice the game.
It was fitting that Islanders captain John Tavares scored the team’s first goal at Barclays when he netted a rebound just in front of Chicago goalie Corey Crawford at 5:22 of the first period.
“I thought about that when he scored, probably just like everybody else,” said Islanders coach Jack Capuano. “He’s your captain, your best player. First game here in Brooklyn and he bangs the first one in. It’s something that he’ll remember and it’ll go down in history.”
There were some noticeable differences in the arena compared to the Coliseum, including a slow ice surface that appeared to aid in the first goal of the game. Chicago’s Artem Anisimov, who picked off a pass from Brock Nelson intended for Nick Leddy, skated down ice to beat Islanders’ goalie Thomas Greiss on a shorthanded goal with 13:28 left in the first.
“It wasn’t great,” Tavares said of the ice, also noting that they’re still adjusting to the new confines.
Multiple pucks took random caroms and odd bounces from the texture of the ice and fresh boards.
“The boards are pretty hot here,” said Chicago’s Kane. “[Pucks] come off pretty fast. You could see a lot of missed plays tonight, where you missed shots on net and they come right back out to the slot. There are some chances to be had there.”
The aesthetics and ambiance were also different from what the team and fans would normally expect at the Coliseum.
“I thought the fans were into it,” said Islanders coach Capuano. “It was loud. Obviously a different atmosphere than the Coliseum, but the guys were looking forward to this game and dropping the puck here tonight.”
There are noticeably fewer Islanders banners hanging in the rafters, though they did retain the banners that honor the team’s Stanley Cup championships and retired jersey numbers.
All conference and division championships have been condensed to two banners, however, compared to the myriad of orange, white and blue historic pieces that used to hug the Coliseum rafters for decades.
“There’s no secret it’s a new time for the franchise,” said Tavares. “It certainly is a little different and I think it’s just some getting used to. I think it’s new, but I don’t think you ever want to change what the Islanders are and what they represent, and what they’ve done, and certainly what we’re trying to do. I know our fans are passionate about that. I think the organization is that way, and the guys in here understand that as well.”
Among the fans in attendance for the historic game was Dan Wittekind of Holbrook, a former season-ticket holder.
“My Dad and I were season-ticket holders since 2000 but not anymore,” he told the Press. “I think we may try to go to about 10 games this season. It’s just too long for us to travel on the train.”
Also on hand was Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, a Democrat who was looking to secure votes in next month’s Election Day race against Republican Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, who wants to replace Singas as DA.
Many Isle’s fans blame Murray for the team moving to Brooklyn, pointing to the town board’s decision during her tenure that effectively killed outgoing owner Charles Wang’s Lighthouse Project. The sentiment was summed up in a sign several fans held that replaced the “K” with an “H” on one of Murray’s campaign signs so it read “Hate Murray.”