September 23, 2013

Thoughts on Hockey at Barclays

It's been a few days since the Isles played their preseason game against the New Jersey Devils at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but I wanted to put my thoughts on here since most people have already beaten me to the punch.

I was fortunate to have been away from my computer the last couple of days, which has allowed me to reflect and think about what I liked and didn't like rather than write anything reactionary.

As many of you already knew, the Barclays Center is really a beautiful arena. Having seen two Nets games there this past season, I fell in love with the place. I like the fact that it's darker and has a higher ceiling. I like that they kept spaces between the levels to a minimum, meaning that the sound stays inside and creates a loud atmosphere. I like the ease of access from public transportation.

Overall, our experience sitting in section 217 (second row) was pretty enjoyable. The sight lines were good, and we didn't feel all that far away from the action. It was a pretty good vantage point to see a hockey game from and to see the play develop when the players came in our direction.

The view from Section 217. Photo by C. Hessel
A part of me is still irked at how some of the seats have obstructed views. I agree with the notion of "buyer beware" that Sean brought up during our show on Saturday. The tickets were priced at a cheap rate, and even though all it said was "limited view" one should have known that it could possibly be really bad. But again, that still does not make it OK.

We'll probably never know the reason why Yormark and company were fixated on solely a basketball friendly configuration when the Isles future has been up in the air for the past decade. But it is what it is.

The arena can fit a comfortable number in for hockey. But can they really do 15,819? I was surprised when Yormark mentioned this during his tour day with the media, and having seen what some of the views were like in some of the sections that have been in question I can definitely say no. Sean thinks they'll end up making some changes, but I don't buy it. It was reported by everyone who went to that media day that Yormark made it clear no changes were coming so I won't hold my breath.

The folks at Barclays would be doing right by everyone to have those seats priced dirt cheap if they insist on selling them. Make it a student section, a supporters section - something where people will be getting in for next to nothing to make the difficulty worth it.

I have seen some folks talk about the sight lines from the center ice sections up in the 200's. Loyal follower @TheEMan22 was kind enough to share his thoughts and a picture on Twitter.

The point about people standing up, or leaning forward on top of the railing is something I've seen mentioned by several others. Because of the way the seats are positioned, that can get annoying at times.

I'm chalking that up more to hockey etiquette, or lack thereof as it was quite absent during the first ever hockey game at the place.

The usher in our area at least figured some of it out after the 1st period ("So there's three long-*** periods and two intermissions? That's what's going on here?") but never did figure out that in hockey fans are usually told not to go back to their seats until there's a stoppage in play. As a matter of fact, no matter what section you looked at this seemed to be an issue.

But, there was also the added factor of having people in attendance for their first hockey game and there were more than you would have thought. There were plenty of people around us who were having the game explained to them by friends or family members, and other groups of people were trying to figure it out on their own without anyone to correct them.

It's nice to see because the Isles are really banking on gaining new fans with the move and at the same time retain a chunk of their base from Long Island. Realistically, it would be poor for any team to plan on that when moving even further away from a place where public transportation is hard to come by. A good measuring stick of this was the merchandise the Isles had for sale on the main concourse.

If you were planning to buy something there, I certainly hope you went early. By the time Sean and I went down to check out what they had during the second intermission, there was nothing left aside from a couple of player t-shirts and some souvenirs. This of course is a good thing (unless you really wanted to buy something). It seems as though the Isles did pretty well here.

You'll notice I didn't mention the scoreboard until now. Quite frankly this is a non-issue, and being made out as a bigger deal than it should be. If the scoreboard being closer to a blueline rather than over the red line is bothering you, then either you have OCD (not that there's anything wrong with that, and it'd be understandable) or you we're just going into this game already hating the building and looking for anything to trash to justify your thoughts. The scoreboard is top notch, with beautiful HD screens that can be seen from anywhere and do not have discolorations or random black patches in them.

Naturally, when the Isles become full time tenants the ice surface will be much better. This was only a temporary surface, and was definitely of concern to some players. Lubomir Visnovsky told me on Friday at practice that this was one of his concerns, citing how different and new the ice felt during the first day of camp when the team was in Brooklyn. The puck didn't travel in all the right ways on some passing plays, and virtually none of the touch passes the Isles attempted were successful. Furthermore you'd need two hands to count the amount of times players fell. This would be a big factor in why the Isles couldn't find the back of the net despite generally controlling the play more at times.

Well, that and Corey Schneider who will undoubtedly haunt us in the Metropolitan Division for the next several years.

The train ride into Atlantic Terminal was a breeze, and seeing the increasing amount of orange and blue get onto the train at each stop from Huntington to Jamaica was pretty cool, as was the sea of those same colors on the platform at the latter.

The train ride home wasn't difficult either, but the sitting around is tough. Between waiting 20 minutes to leave Atlantic Terminal, then another 15 because of track work at Syosset it definitely makes for a long night. But there are rumblings that the LIRR plans to increase service during game nights by 2015 and even add direct lines from Atlantic Terminal to Babylon, Huntington and Ronkonkoma and that will definitely aid in helping out the Suffolk fanbase. The LIRR and MTA had plenty of people running around with clipboards, taking down notes and statistics on how many people were out and about on the train and in the streets.

I mentioned the trip to the Barclays was easy, and we actually got there early at around 5 PM. But congrats to you if you were able to get a seat at any of the name brand restaurants in the area. Both Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebees were packed, leaving many to complain about the service or stuff their faces in 10 minutes flat just so they could get to the building before 7 PM (us included). At least our waiter hinted that they weren't prepared for the mass amount of people. His curiosity on if this truly was a preseason game pretty much cemented that.

Which brings me to the final thought. I'm impressed that this many people made it out to Brooklyn for the game. The tickets were not as cheap as your typical preseason game, and outside of Canada a well attended game seems to be between 8,000 - 10,000. But getting 14,700 fans into the building (with some help from the Devils faithful) was impressive and made for a fun atmosphere.

If only the Isles would have given everyone something to cheer for, prior to the fights in the last few minutes when some people had already filed out.

I enjoyed the experience, and can easily see how the Isles will do well there money wise when it comes to marketing the brand. It can be a cash cow that gives them something they can finally invest back into the team to make them competitive and keep interest high and the building filled - obstructed seats included. A failure to do that will only magnify issues.

The building as is is not the most ideal for hockey. We can try and spin how to feel about obstructed views any way we want. But at the end of the day it'll be treated like any new building before it. Fans will try different things out, and see where their ideal spots are.

No matter what, this beats the alternative of turning on Center Ice at 10 PM for the next 15 years to watch John Tavares lead his new Seattle franchise to victory.

What were some of your thoughts? Leave a comment or hit us up on Twitter @NYIFYI

- Chris

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