Isles, fans embark on new era tonight in Brooklyn debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Step aside, Jay Z. Pack up the nets. It’s time to roll out the blue-and-orange carpet in Brooklyn.

The home of Hannah Horvath and her hipster friends is set to sound the horn for the arrival of John Tavares and the New York Islanders.

Fans, make sure there’s a MetroCard tucked in the wallet next to the game ticket. There’s a new way to travel on game night — by subway, by train, and probably with an Islander or two along for the ride.

The Brooklynization of the Islanders at the Barclays Center is underway.

Led by the Blue and Orange Army — the hardcore fans who will “Rock the Barc!” every night — the Islanders know the generational loyalists will follow them about 30 miles to their new home.

But will Brooklyn get off the stoop and head to the rink?

The Islanders fled their outdated, lovable dump of a home in Uniondale, New York, for a fresh start at the state-of-the-art Barclays Center. So far, the Islanders have every reason to feel right at home.

Stanley Cup banners hang from the rafters, and the arena is wrapped in Islanders’ imagery. John Tavares and teammates have their faces plastered all over the building, nearby businesses, and subway terminals.

Alexa Ray Joel is set to sing the national anthem before the opener on Friday night against the Blackhawks, and there will be other nods toward the franchise’s past — all with an eye set on the future.

“We’re asking the fanbase to be with us along the way because we may do some other things that Brooklynizes the in-game experience,” Barclays Center COO Fred Mangione said. “There will always be a nice balance and that’s our goal.”

The Islanders are entering their first season at the Barclays Center – home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets since 2012 – after spending their first 43 years at Nassau Coliseum.

But if the Nets underwent a total reboot, from name to logo to jersey colors, this transition is more like Islanders 2.0.

Brooklyn remained true to the Islanders’ roots and brought along some Coliseum staples that should appeal to the traditionalists.

— Paul Cartier will play the organ just as he’s done since the Stanley Cup heyday.

— The four Stanley Cup Championship banners and six retired jersey banners will hang in the rafters, along with the banners of former head coach Al Arbour and former GM Bill Torrey.

— The Islanders super-fan group, the Blue and Orange Army, will pack sections 228 and 229.

The Islanders listened to focus groups and beefed up train service with a Barclays Center Direct line, adding two additional direct pre- and postgame trains. The two postgame trains will leave 20 minutes after the end of each game, regardless of when the final horn sounds.

Oh yes, that horn.

The Islanders’ plan to abandon their traditional goal horn with one that sounded like a subway horn was panned by fans during preseason games and abruptly scrapped.

The balance between old and new remains a work in progress.

“With 80 percent of our patrons taking a subway, you’d think they’d get the connection,” Mangione said. “But look, the tradition outweighed the connection and we understood that. We met on that right away.”

The Islanders also irked some fans — yet likely made some new ones — with the black and white third jersey they will wear 12 times this season. The jersey kept the four stripes that pays homage to the championships, yet scrubbed the skyline that omits Brooklyn and Queens.

“Our group always understood this change was a lot better than a Kansas City or a Quebec move,” said Blue and Orange member James Fess. “The cause is still the same, only the building has changed.”

While arena and team officials touted the parking lots around the arena, The Blue and Orange Army have ditched the cars this season for Traingating. The pregame party starts on the line and rolls right into Barclays.

Who will join them?

Brooklyn is loaded with transplants, who after flocking to the big city, found they couldn’t afford Manhattan. Or they’re new-wave hipsters who think Brooklyn is cool because of the art culture and TV shows such as HBO’s “Girls.”

Just how much of an interest they’ll take in hockey remains to be seen.

Jay Pichardo, 47, of Queens, New York, wasn’t so sure as he stood in line this week at the arena’s box office to buy tickets for a Rangers-Islanders game.

“They’re going to have show more interest in the community because they’re new,” said Pichardo, a season-ticket holder for the Rangers. “I don’t think kids here in Brooklyn even care about hockey. In Long Island, it was all about the families.”

Islanders CEO Brett Yormark said about one-third of the season ticket holders are from the Brooklyn/Manhattan boroughs, another third from the Isles’ old stomping grounds in Nassau and Suffolk county and the rest from Connecticut, New Jersey and other areas.

He wants the fans inside the arena to represent all of New York.

“We need to diversity the fanbase here in Brooklyn,” Yormark said. “For us to be successful, our fanbase needs to look very different than any other fanbase. We need to reflect the makeup of our borough. We do it for Nets games, we do it for most of our events.”

The Barclays Center will have a capacity less than 16,000 for hockey, putting it at the second-smallest in the NHL behind Winnipeg’s MTS Centre.

It won’t be the cheapest ticket in the game.

“The average ticket price was about $45,” in Long Island, Yormark said. “In our building, it’s about $90. I thought, oh my God, they aren’t going to come. They wouldn’t pay for it. But people will pay whatever you need them to pay for something as long as the value proposition is aligned.”

The arena wasn’t built for hockey and many seats have obstructed sightlines. The rink is off center and sales reps walked potential season tickets holders around the sections to find the right fit.

“Getting people’s money is a big commitment for us,” Mangione said, “but the bigger commitment is getting someone’s time.”

Joseph Rosa, 28, of Queens, New York, said at the Barclays Center the wrong seat might not make season tickets worth it for 44 games each season.

“They’re the worst seats ever,” he said.

The Islanders still have to spread the news they’re in town. The motto above the register at the Modell’s across the street from the arena references the Nets in a sign that reads, “Brooklyn Now Has a Home Team.”

The sporting goods store welcomed the Islanders with open arms — and cash registers — upping the number of merchandise racks from two to seven this season and adding prominent window displays. Tavares jerseys and the new black-and-white jerseys hang in window space also devoted to baseball playoff gear for the Mets and Yankees.

“We have a lot of tourists coming in looking for Islanders gear,” store general manager Nick Chang said.

At the Buffalo Wild Wings a block from Barclays, no Islanders memorabilia was displayed on the walls, which included posters or beer signs representing nearly every other New York team – including the new MLS team, New York City FC.

The Islanders are locked into a 25-year lease with the Barclays Center, though it hasn’t stopped speculation they will eventually return to their former home.

While the “The Old Barn” sits empty as it undergoes a multimillion makeover, Nassau county executive Ed Mangano riled up the borough when he went on sports talk radio station WFAN and said, “I certainly do believe that we will see the return of the Islanders at some point.”

The Islanders say, not a chance.

The team’s headquarters and practice facility remain on Long Island, where the players continue to live. Tavares and his teammates will commute on the Long Island Rail Road to Barclays, just like the fans.

“We’ll miss the Coliseum, the crowd and that sort thing, but it’s not even a level playing field when you compare this facility to the Coliseum,” Islanders general manager Garth Snow said.

Related: Goalie nods: Greiss gets the start over injured Halak

Stars expect to open camp without unsigned scorer Jason Robertson

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
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FRISCO, Texas — Young 40-goal scorer Jason Robertson is expected to miss the start of training camp for the Dallas Stars because the team and the restricted free agent haven’t agreed on a new contract.

General manager Jim Nill said there’s been steady, ongoing negotiations over the last couple of weeks with Robertson and his representatives. Nill wouldn’t say what has kept the two sides from reaching a deal, adding there have been “very good discussions.”

The Stars, with new coach Pete DeBoer, open camp Thursday in Cedar Park, Texas, at the home of their AHL team. They have three days of work there before returning to North Texas for their exhibition opener at home on Monday night. They open the regular season Oct. 13 at Nashville.

“I think he’s disappointed he’s not at camp, we are too,” Nill said before the team departed for the Austin area. “I think it’s very important for a younger player and as you mentioned, the (new) coaching staff. … We do have some time on our side, but we wish he gets here as soon as he can.”

Robertson had a base salary of $750,000 last season, the end of a $2.775 million, three-year contract. He still has five more years before he has the opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent.

The left wing turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when he had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

A second-round draft pick by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. He had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

DeBoer said he looks forward to coaching Robertson, but that the forward’s absence won’t change his plans for camp.

“It doesn’t impact what I’m doing,” DeBoer said. “Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here. So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

Nill said the Stars are open to a long-term extension or a bridge contract for Robertson, who was part of the team’s top line last season with veteran Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz. They combined for 232 points, the second-most in franchise history for a trio.

“We’re open to anything. But other than that … I’m not going to negotiate through the media,” Nill said. “As I said, we’ve had good conversations. We’ll see where it goes.”

Training camps open around NHL after another short offseason

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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Training camps open around the NHL after another short offseason, a third in a row squeezed by the pandemic. That doesn’t bother Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon one bit.

For one of hockey’s best players and his teammates, it’s already time to get back on the ice and defend their Stanley Cup title, less than three months since they knocked off the back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I still feel like I just was playing,” MacKinnon said. “I took two weeks off, and then I started skating again. It’s just fun. I enjoy it, and I like the short summer. It feels like the season’s just kind of rolling over again.”

The NHL rolls into fall coming off an entertaining playoffs and final with the chance to finally get back on a normal schedule. That means full camps for teams that got new coaches and the benefits of a regular routine.

That means a mere 88 days between Game 6 of the final and the first-on ice practice sessions.

“We’re kind of used to it now,” Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy said after he and the Lightning lost in the final for the first time in three consecutive trips. “It’s a little harder, of course, because you don’t have that much time to rest. It’s basically a few weeks and you have to get back at it. But, yeah, I can’t complain. You want your summers to be short every year.”

It was a little longer for Connor McDavid and the Oilers after losing to Colorado in the West final. Despite the lack of downtime, McDavid “wouldn’t trade that in for anything” and aims to make it even further since Edmonton shored up its goaltending situation by adding Jack Campbell.

A few spins of the goalie carousel ended with the Avalanche acquiring Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers and Cup winner Darcy Kuemper landing with Washington. Joining new teammates, many of whom hoisted the Cup in 2018, Kuemper is not worried about less time off.

“It was definitely a very unique summer,” Kuemper said. “With how short it was, you start getting back into the gym and you’re kind of a little bit worried that your training’s going to be so short. But you kind of felt like you weren’t getting back into shape. You were already there.”

NEW COACHES

The Oilers are one of several teams settling in for training camp under a new coach. Jay Woodcroft took over as interim coach in February but has the full-time job now.

“Looking forward to a camp with him,” McDavid said. “He did a great job coming in during the middle of the season, but it’s never easy on a coach, for sure. I’m sure there’s things that he wanted to touch on that you wasn’t able to kind of in the middle of the year, so he’ll be able to to touch on all of it this year.”

The same goes for Bruce Boudreau in Vancouver, 11 months since being put in charge of the Canucks. Philadelphia’s John Tortorella, Boston’s Jim Montgomery, Vegas’ Bruce Cassidy, Dallas’ Peter DeBoer, Florida’s Paul Maurice, Chicago’s Luke Richardson, Detroit’s Derek Lalonde and the New York Islanders’ Lane Lambert are all starting the job fresh.

CAMP TRYOUTS

Roughly 40 players are attending a camp on a professional tryout agreement with the chance to earn a contract for the season. James Neal has that opportunity with the Blue Jackets, and Derek Stepan returned to Carolina to seek a job with the Hurricanes.

The most intriguing situation involves 37-year-old center Eric Staal, who agreed to the tryout with Florida the same time brother Marc signed a one-year contract. Younger brother Jordan was with Eric and Marc on the 18th green at Pebble Beach to witness the occasion.

“They’re both just super pumped, as was I,” said Jordan Staal, who is the captain of the Hurricanes. “Eric is excited about the opportunity and Marc, as well. Really cool. Really cool thing.”

EARLY START

Before the puck drops on the NHL season in North America on Oct. 11, the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks play twice in Prague on Oct. 7 and 8. And those are not exhibitions.

“We still play two important games,” said Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, who is a native of Prague. “It’s not just preseason where you coming here to warm up.”

Colorado and Columbus will also play two games in Tampere, Finland, on Nov. 4-5 as part of the NHL’s Global Series.

And just as the league gets used to a regular schedule, work is ongoing between the league and NHL Players’ Association to stage a World Cup of Hockey in February 2024, which is popular among players even if it knocks the calendar off kilter again.

“I think they missed out on a huge, huge portion of the international game that’s really going to be missed,” McDavid said. “We need to figure out a way to get an international tournament in as quickly as possible.”

Matthew Tkachuk, Panthers ready for 1st training camp together

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
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CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — Aleksander Barkov was sound asleep at his home in Finland when the trade that brought Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers was finalized, which isn’t surprising considering it was around 4 a.m. in that part of the world.

He woke up and read texts from friends reacting to the deal.

And it wasn’t too long before he got a message from Tkachuk.

“The first message was `(expletive) right’ and how he was excited to come to Florida,” Barkov, the Panthers’ captain, said at Florida’s media day. “`Let’s take this next step, let’s be a winning team for many years to come.’ That’s who he is. He wants to win. He wants to bring that character to this organization. And I think he’s done some damage already.”

With that, Barkov was sold.

And after a few weeks of informally skating with one another, the Panthers start the process of officially seeing what they have in Tkachuk when the team’s training camp – the first under new coach Paul Maurice – opens.

“We’ve basically had everybody here for a few weeks,” Tkachuk said. “I feel like I’ve been in training camp for a couple of weeks. So today doesn’t feel that new to me. I’ve gotten to know everybody … so let’s get these games going. I’m sick and tired of just practicing and working. I want to start playing some games. I think everybody feels the same way.”

Maurice was hired over the summer as well, inheriting a team that won the Presidents’ Trophy last season and went to the second round of the playoffs — the first series win for Florida since the run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996.

He’s as eager as the players are for the first formal practice, calling it “our first Christmas.”

“The house is bought. Most of the boxes are unpacked,” Maurice said. “I’ve got two kids that kind of came with me; one’s in Coral Gables, one’s in Estero. Their places are unpacked. They’re out of our house. Once you get down here, for me, you spend most of your days at the rink. So, experiencing all of South Florida, we haven’t gotten to that yet.”

As part of the deal that went down on July 22, the 24-year-old Tkachuk signed a eight-year, $76 million contract. That’s not the only big cost that the Panthers had to agree to while executing the trade; they also sent Jonathan Huberdeau, the franchise’s all-time scoring leader, and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a left wing who had career bests of 42 goals, 62 assists and 104 points last season.

“I wish all the best to Huby and Weegs,” Barkov said. “They’re great. Everyone loved them. Only good things to say about them. It happens, and for sure, it was best for the team and organization to do this. We move on, and we’ll get ready for a new season.”

BOBROVSKY’S SUMMER

Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is Russian, still makes his home in St. Petersburg, and went there for the bulk of his offseason.

He said it was not logistically difficult to travel there (or return to the U.S.) this summer, even as the war that started when Russia invaded Ukraine continues. Bobrovsky said last season that he was not trying to focus on anything but hockey, and when asked if it was difficult to be back in Russia as war continues he kept the same approach.

“I had a good summer,” Bobrovsky said. “I saw friends, I saw family. It’s all been fine. I don’t want to talk about what’s going on. I’m not involved in that stuff.”

CAMP ROSTER

Florida is opening camp with 56 players – 31 forwards, 19 defensemen and six goalies. That group includes brothers Eric Staal and Marc Staal; Marc Staal signed as a free agent in July; Eric Staal is with Florida on a tryout contract.

Coyotes sign Barrett Hayton right before training camp

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes signed forward Barrett Hayton to a two-year contract right before the start of training camp.

Terms of the deal were not released.

The 22-year-old Hayton was a restricted free agent and not initially listed on Arizona’s roster for camp.

Hayton had 10 goals and 14 assists in 60 games with the Coyotes last season, all career highs.

Arizona drafted the Peterborough, Ontario native with the fifth overall pick of the 2018 NHL draft. He has 13 goals and 18 assists in 94 career games with the Coyotes.