Mandatory credit to AECOM

Barclays Center Opens Its Doors to the New York Islanders

Atrium

Photo by Rich Dias-Rodrigues

Brooklyn hosted its first NHL skate today, and showed all present that it can indeed host and maintain a professional hockey club, now and well into the future.

This state-of-the art facility will most certainly herald Islanders hockey into a new era, allowing for first-time visitors (to both arena and sport) and die-hard fans alike to feel as if hockey is the sport of the future, even if it’s been an established profession for quite some time.

First impressions are crucial, and the ‘GEICO Atrium’ alone is worth the price of a ticket; the ice greets a visitor within steps of entering, and the aura and elaborate lighting draws one into a world very much closed off from Flatbush Avenue and the realities therein; picture a casino, or an upscale grand hotel, that is at once attractive, modern, sleek, without a hint of garishness. The suites most definitely bespeak poshness, if you will.

Strangely enough is the noticeable air of cologne (?) that is somewhat reminiscent of that which Hollister and/or Abercrombie & Fitch do, but obviously (and thankfully) not as obtrusive.

If you’ve been to Barclays for basketball or a concert, then logically some of what’s said is known fact. But in all honesty, there’s a completely distinct vibe exuding once you see the ice and the Isles’s logo.

Gravest concern of all was whether the Islanders would be playing in the Nets arena; in other words, ‘borrowing’ the place from the basketball club. Not at all.

Today’s open house put to rest any such doubt, and assuredly, Barclays belongs to hockey equally, and to the New York Islanders especially. Visiting squads will have to accept that the old way of doing things with this organization, its attitude, has irrevocably changed for good and forever.

The media tour snaked the entire facility from locker and press rooms, to each section and vantage point of the arena. Noticeable, as well, is the vertical feel one gets from, say, section 220. The angle, when facing the ice, forces a fan to stand erect or even aback, so as avoid tipping over or so it seems.

But once seated, there’s no possible way to miss the action; so, find that #1 foam finger and bring it to the game because you will not interfere with anyone’s line of sight.

Barclays is a much dimmer venue than most, especially the Coliseum. The halls have that nightclub appeal, with their food stands using blue and red neon lighting that lend a silky undertone to the sporting event at play. Unsurprisingly, the bars and concessions cater to restauranteurs more than to Joe Neckbone and the ‘Beer and Peanuts’ crowd, in direct opposition to the gritty and ever lovable Coliseum stands of decades past. (No fried pickles, here.) But overall, it’s to be expected in such a setting.

Thus, the “40/40 Club” is its own venue, apart from the ice, yet overlooking the Atrium and offering a quick glance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Atlantic Avenue, if ever slightly. Someone should consider renaming it the 50/50 Club or Bossy’s Joint, when the Islanders play, no? Jay-Z, what say you?

Currently in the works is the Islander Campus, a concerted effort in both technology and postmodern design. When shown pictures given to the press, Matt Moulson‘s first reaction was literally, “Whoa!”  Followed immediately by, “Can I move in and bring my family?” Good to see that the players are equally in awe.

IMG_0783

Photo by Rich Dias-Rodrigues

Photo by Rich Dias-Rodrigues

Photo by Rich Dias-Rodrigues

As for the scoreboard being off-center, the answer is yes. But not to the point most fans feared. It’s slightly off to the left, if you’re seated and the logo is right-side up (which by the way, looks incredible from center ice) due primarily to Barclays’ horseshoe’ construction, and that’s not changing at all.

Besides, fans will be too busy watching hockey to worry that a scoreboard is off-center by a few feet. Seriously.

Barclays chose black-covered/colored seats, in case you didn’t know, and with the aroma and the crisp, cool air pumping through the vents, one gets the feeling of being inside an incredibly large Mercedes-Benz; take the aforementioned for better or worse.

But the coup de grace is the intimacy. Most definitely the one overriding quality that shall set Barclays Center apart from other NHL arenas, and will elevate the hockey-viewing experience to heights no one Islander fan has ever experienced. Guaranteed.

Pucks sound sharper and louder when shot and/or bouncing off the boards. During practice, almost every instruction shouted out by coach Jack Capuano could be heard from section 115 with utter clarity. There’s nothing like it. You can hear the grunts if quiet enough. Below is a picture four rows from the ice.

Photo by Rich Dias-Rodrigues

Photo by Rich Dias-Rodrigues

When asked about the ice surface, Matt Moulson responded by saying that it still needs some “tearing up” and some Zamboni work, but it felt quite good.  Kyle Okposo echoed a similar sentiment, and going on to say that the general experience of playing at Barclays was a positive one. (Interviews to follow in the coming days.)

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PRESS CONFERENCE NOTES

  • Charles Wang made mention that he will honor his commitment to the Coliseum and play out what’s left of the lease agreement. When asked if he was excited about the future of the team, and Barclays as the apex of the team’s rebuild, he quipped, “Did you see the smile on my face when I walked in?” Everyone had a good laugh.
  • Daniel Friedman (@dfriedmanWFAN) of WFAN asked Coach Capuano whether or not Ryan Strome would see some considerable NHL ice time, a question that was seemingly skirted by most; Capuano gave a reserved yes, as if to say, as long as things go according to plan.
  • Otherwise, not much else can be expected from Capuano, Wang, and Garth Snow on day one.

Here’s some of what Charles Wang had to say:

Charles Wang on Barclays and Coliseum Lease

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More on EOI Media Day coverage at the Barclays Center to follow.  Thanks for reading.

And a special thanks to Gary Harding, Christian Arnold, and Dan Friedman for sharing time and thoughts.

Coming soon: Andy Graziano speaks with Kevin Poulin and Matt Martin, while Mike Willhoft and Matt Moulson chat it up some.

 

(The first puck deflected into the stands at the Barclays. )

Photo by Rich Dias-Rodrigues; Puck courtesy of a deflected Ryan Pulock shot

Photo by Rich Dias-Rodrigues; Puck courtesy of a deflected Ryan Pulock shot

–RDR

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