Through 45 games, the New York Islanders sit in second place in the National Hockey League’s Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the New York Rangers. On the ice, the first half of their inaugural season in Brooklyn has looked similar to the past few years for the Islanders — they look like a playoff team with the potential to make a run at the Stanley Cup in the spring.
Off the ice is a different view: With 25 of the team’s 41 regular season home games in the books, the Islanders are 28th out of the NHL’s 30 teams in average attendance, drawing a little more than 13,000 people per game, according to approximate figures reported by media outlets, including ESPN.
The league does not confirm official attendance statistics until the end of the season, but reported that the Islanders drew more than 15,000 fans on average during their final run at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, in the 2014-15 hockey season.
The trip from Smithtown to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, where the Barclays Center is located, takes more than an hour and a half by car. Taking the train from the Long Island Rail Road’s Smithtown train station takes about two and a half hours, including a change at Jamaica Station.
In an unofficial TBR Newspapers poll of Islanders fans from Suffolk County, most people said they had not yet been to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to watch the Islanders this year.
Ron Carlson, a Port Jefferson resident and former village recreation director who had season tickets to the Coliseum for about 10 years, said the trip is too far by car and “I’m not a train person.” He has not been to a home game yet this season.
Erin Morano, of Shoreham, who regularly used to take her family of five to games in Nassau, hasn’t been to a game in 2015-16 either.
“It’s not as convenient,” Morano said. “Parking is tough and expensive in Brooklyn.”
Brittney Skarulis, of Smithtown, used to attend Islander games as a fan and an employee, but not so far in Brooklyn.
“It’s too far to go and the traffic is terrible,” Skarulis said. “I was a guest Islander ice girl when the games were in Nassau Coliseum. It was more convenient to go there than the Barclays Center.”
Some parents, like Ken Hayes from East Setauket, said it’s hard to bring their kids to game due to the long ride home — when games begin at 7 p.m. and end anywhere between 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., they would get home too late.
Hayes went to his first game in Brooklyn in January. He said that it was fairly quiet for a hockey game.
Distance, lack of convenience, lack of parking and expense of the travel were the most common explanations for those who haven’t yet taken in a game this season. No one had a bad thing to say about the brand of hockey that the Islanders are putting on the ice. With a young core of talented players, the team is trending in the right direction. But fans from Suffolk County are not there to witness it as frequently in 2015 and 2016.