The push for the Islanders to play all of their home games on Long Island is on.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curren wrote an open letter to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday, asking the league to move all Islanders home games to Nassau Coliseum for the 2020-21 season. The Islanders have been splitting time at Nassau Coliseum and Barclays Center while they await the completion of their new arena at Belmont Park.
“Let the Islanders play all home games for the 2020-2021 NHL regular season at the Nassau Coliseum,” Curran wrote. “It’s what the fans want. It’s what the players want. And, recent evidence has been clear that when Isles play home games on Long Island they win. Let us ‘Rock the Barn’ for one more full and final year.”
The Islanders have been slowly inching their way towards a more Long Island friendly schedule. When the 2019-20 season comes to an end the Islanders will have played 28 home games at the Coliseum and 13 at the Barclays Center.
The league moved an additional eight games before the season started, which included both Islander home games at Nassau Coliseum against the New York Rangers, from Brooklyn to Long Island.
“We appreciate the County Executive’s passion and interest,” Bettman told Newsday. “The request is a little premature, but it’s something we’ll consider at the appropriate time.”
The NHL is already facing an impending question of where the Islanders will play if the team makes the postseason. The league allowed the Isles to play the first round at the Nassau Coliseum last season before moving the second round home dates to Barclays Center.
Bettman attempted to sidestep the question during a recent interview with WFAN afternoon hosts Joe & Evan.
“If the Islanders continue to build the way they have and go into the second (round), third and even the Stanley Cup Final, we’re going to have to figure out the logistics of what makes sense, because it’s difficult to host your major events, as the playoffs are for us, in a non-major-league facility,” Bettman said during the appearance.
The other question the NHL and the Islanders will have to contend with is which building will fill up the most. Thursday night’s Islanders-Rangers tilt on Long Island will surely be a sellout, but the first few months of the season there were some noticeably empty seats at the Coliseum.
The Islanders had just one sellout at Nassau Coliseum from opening night through Dec. 17. The Islanders are averaging an attendance of 12,488 through 17 games on Long Island, while the six games in Brooklyn have averaged 13,089 fans.
Sports Business Daily did indicate that the Islanders had been just one of two teams that had seen a double-digit increase in attendance through their first 16 home dates compared to last season.