June 2, 2020
Unlike baseball which have two grossly subpar facilities, none of the 31 NHL arenas are “bad” places to watch a game. All have some merit.
But up until the NHL COVID-19 pause, there was one “bad” NHL rink. It was the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, a venue in the news for other reasons lately.
Now make no mistake, the Barclay’s Center is a gorgeous facility. It uses a tasteful dark brown and grey motif and has a fantastic HD videoboard. The Oculus above the main entrance with its LCD screen is quite impressive and unique in stadium design. Nice touches like planting the Ebbets Field flagpole at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush helped give it a sense of place. And they sell wonderful (albeit expensive) local delicacies in the concession stands.
But it wasn’t built for hockey. During the building stage, they decided not to build it as a multi-sport facility, and instead focused on basketball and concerts. As such, this state of the art building was horrible for hockey in many seats.
The scoreboard sat over a blue line rather than center ice. Many of the seats did not allow for full views of the ice. Hell, some seats at one end of the upper deck had no view of one of the goals! That’s a VERY obstructed view.
Not only that, there was a real lack of fan support. The Islanders have a proud and loyal base on Long Island (yes, Brooklyn is technically part of Long Island; but a tomato is technically a fruit). Many didn’t follow the team to Brooklyn given traffic or the hassle of taking the train for a weeknight game. And the team was unable to build much a new fan base with the Brooklyn hipsters.
To their credit, the Islanders realized the error of their ways and will be moving back to the Nassau Coliseum on a full time basis in 2020-21 until their new arena is ready in Belmont Park. (OK, they may have been kicked out, but regardless, the right move is being made.) So the worst hockey venue in the NHL is giving up on hockey and going back to being a good basketball and concert venue.
As it turns out, I saw one of the last hockey games played here. I would have taken some souvenirs had I known that at the time. Or a least a shot from one of those ridiculous seats in which you couldn’t see the goal.