In a unique arrangement, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that beginning next season the New York Islanders will split time between Barclays Center and their old arena, Nassau Coliseum, until a new rink project at Belmont Park is completed.
The deal is expected to last three seasons with the Islanders playing 12 home games at the renovated Coliseum next season and splitting games between Long Island and Brooklyn through the 2020-21 NHL season.
Islanders captain John Tavares, speaking during All-Star Weekend in Tampa, was very happy with the idea of going back home.
“The Coliseum is a special place. We had an exhibition game there this year and it brought back a lot of great memories. For me, it’s where I started my career, it’s where so many great things have happened. I really haven’t thought about it a whole lot. But I’ve always said the team belongs on Long Island. It’s where the team was born, created its identity . . . If that’s the case, it’s going to be a great opportunity, a great experience to go back there and to relive — and create some more — great history.”
Tavares, of course, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and the team’s arena issue was something many speculated would have an impact on his decision whether to re-sign.
“There are a variety of things that have to be upgraded, whether it’s the locker rooms, and training facilities and the like. That’s something we’re in touch with the Islanders on,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said on Saturday. “The Nassau Coliseum has been given a nice refresh in terms of the way it looks, but it’s still the Nassau Coliseum. So anything that may or may not take place there certainly would have to be on a temporary basis.”
There will be plenty of upgrades to the facility before the Islanders set up shop there again, but NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly added it’s “not a long-term facility.” The renovated Coliseum can hold 13,900 for hockey, whereas prior to the upgrades it held close to 17,000.
The Islanders played at Nassau Coliseum until 2015 and have spent the past four seasons in Brooklyn at Barclays Center. Last month, the team won the bid for a new arena project by Belmont Park.