Though the first NHL game played at Barclays Center in Brooklyn was not an Islanders victory, it was an experience the players involved will never forget. A near-sellout crowd of 14,689 watched the New Jersey Devils defeat the Islanders 3-0, but an electric atmosphere could be felt from the first note of the national anthem all the way through the final horn.
“It was outstanding,” Islanders forward Matt Martin. “You look around the NHL and you see the crowds that are usually in for a preseason game and you don’t see something like that. I think the people at Barclays and the Islanders, and even the Devils did a good job marketing this and it was fun to see that kind of crowd here.”
The Devils scored a goal in each period, though the pro-Islanders crowd roared with every scoring chance, hoping for the opportunity to explode into celebration.
“The crowd was good and it was a fun game,” Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said. “We had some chances early; we just couldn’t get that first one to really get them into it. But it was definitely exciting for our guys.”
The Islanders made their first appearance at Barclays Center last week, when the team opened up training camp with a practice at the state-of-the-art facility. All 52 players in camp got the opportunity to skate that day, which made Saturday’s game even more exciting, as players got a chance to see how loud Barclays can get with a raucous crowd in the building.
After the game, it was clear the building lived up to expectiations.
“It was awesome,” Martin said. “The facility and the fans were fantastic. Everybody came out to make it a great environment. Overall, it was a lot of fun. We got a taste of what it’s going to be like in a couple years and it was a great experience. It was a great thing to be a part of.”
Though the Islanders will be headed to Brooklyn full-time in 2015-16, Martin was quick to point out that the team has some unfinished business left to take care of back on Long Island.
“We’re excited that we’re going to be here in a couple years, but at the same time, we still have a couple more years to play at Nassau,” Martin said. “It’d be great to win a Cup there after all the memories and the legacy that the team has built there. A lot of great players have played in that building and it would be great to send our fans out with another Cup before we head up here to Brooklyn.”
While there had been uncertainty, at times, surrounding the future of the Islanders, Capuano noted how important it was for owner Charles Wang to keep the team in New York, even if it meant a move 20 miles east.
“Our owner tried to do something in the area that couldn’t get done,” Capuano said. “But he explored other avenues and worked it out so that he was able to keep the team in New York.”
If the crowd Saturday night was any indication, Islanders management aren’t the only people excited about the move to Brooklyn. After all, 14,689 screaming fans at a preseason game don’t lie.
“For our guys to come in for that practice last week and the days leading up to this game, we knew it was going to be a great crowd,” Capuano said, “And it lived up the expectation.”