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Unsportsmanlike Conduct: No sleep till Brooklyn for Islanders
Well, the Islanders are moving to Brooklyn, and as a native Long Islander and a lifelong Islander fan (one of the very few), I feel obliged to comment on the move.
Quite frankly, the more I think about it, the more disappointed I am; not in the team and its ownership, but mostly by my fellow Long Islanders. Nassau County, where the Islanders play, rejected owner Charles Wang’s numerous proposals to build a new stadium to replace the Islanders’ home. Nassau Coliseum is one of the oldest, most decrepit stadiums in the NHL. Honestly, it was surprising that Wang kept the Islanders on Long Island for so long, especially considering that the Islanders have been last in the NHL in attendance for four of the past five years. It was rumored for a while that the team would move to Kansas City, but now it’s a bittersweet surprise that the Islanders are at least staying in New York, and moving to Brooklyn instead.
The Islanders did deserve a new home; they were being mistreated and ignored by Long Islanders as the team got worse, and it was clear that Nassau County was not very intent on supporting any new arena that their tax dollars would help build. Brooklyn, with its new Barclays Center that will also host the Nets, serves as the perfect home for the lost team. Plus, with craze over the Nets also coming to town still ripe, the borough seems ripe for another new sports team.
And it’s exactly what the Islanders need. The once-proud sports franchise, whch won four Stanley Cups in a row back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, needed a new home and a new face in order to restore its dignity. Remaining in New York is the best way for the team to keep that legacy alive, especially because it can keep its name.
Moving the team to a place like Kansas City would have involved a brand new start, with a brand new name. Just look at sports franchises that have recently changed locales–neither the Oklahoma City Thunder nor the Washington Nationals have any tie to their past teams, the Seattle SuperSonics and Montreal Expos, respectively. Sometimes a clean break is good, but for a team that’s had as much past success as the Islanders have, it’s better to keep their identity and hope to be great again. By moving to Brooklyn, they can do just that.
Even if a Brooklyn move beats relocation to Kansas City, it’s still upsetting to see the last major professional sports team leave Long Island. The now-Brooklyn Nets were one of the first Long Island pro-sports teams and also one of the first to go: moving to Long Island from New Jersey as the New York Americans in 1967 in the American Basketball Association, only to move back to Jersey in 1977. The Islanders got their start in 1972, and are leaving in 2015. The Jets held training camp at Long Island’s Hofstra University for four decades, before leaving for New Jersey in 2008 and moving to upstate New York soon after. Now, LI is left with Major League Lacrosse’s Long Island Lizards and a couple of other semi-professional teams in soccer and baseball – not exactly the cream of the crop.
Long Island is no small market; if it were to become its own state, it would be the 13th biggest state in the country in terms of population, right behind Virginia. Still, it does not seem as though the Island looks poised to take on a sports team. With the Nets coming to Brooklyn, New York now has at least two teams in every major sport (if you count the Giants and Jets, who technically play in Jersey) and seems saturated in terms of sports teams.
But who knows? Maybe the Brooklyn hipsters will get tired of this new fad and move on to something less mainstream, or after a few years, some owner will see Long Island as the place to be. But until then, go Lizards!