Islanders to Brooklyn: Dodging the relocation blues

Wang: "We're the New York Islanders." - Bruce Bennett

Bear with us, dear reader, as we hit the Brooklyn theme from multiple angles. It's kind of a big deal.

At Lighthouse Hockey we're going to cover the New York Islanders' announced move to Brooklyn in multiple ways over the next few days. Upon reflection amid yesterday's whirlwind, we realized, 1) Holy cow this is for real! and 2) It affects each of us in different ways, much like the Islanders fanbase as a whole.

So you'll see more musings and reflections like Mark's, some "Lighthouse Zeitgeist" sendups, and who knows what other wrinkles develop.

One thing that struck me yesterday, as I digested news between meetings in my "real job," is how this news was decades in the making, seemed increasingly inevitable for the past half year, and yet the very end -- to steal a phrase from Fletch as "Mr. Babar" -- was extremely sudden. No matter how long you've prepared for it, those three hours between the media advisory and the official word were a jolt of adrenaline that turned so many Islanders fans' worlds on their heads.

Cross-Section: 'We're All Islanders'

And that's another consequence of this: Some of you are thrilled. Some of you are crushed. Some of you are just glad it's over. Our LHH editorial team alone typifies a cross-section of Isles fans: From 10 minutes drive to the Coli, to Brooklyn, to New Jersey, to freaking Philadelphia. (Oh, to the Midwest, too, though I'm nearly alone out here.)

Islanders fans come from, and have moved to, everywhere. We have California and Florida and Canada, Sweden and Switzerland and the U.K. regularly chiming in on this site. Many very Nassau-local fans are upset by the move, but by and large the fanbase is relieved that this beats the alternatives.

The Coliseum wasn't working, and efforts to replace it failed. Wrong politics, wrong economy, wrong timing, wrong in a lot of ways. It stinks for the people whose routines are disrupted, whose lives cannot easily port from the County to Brooklyn. But this will open up avenues for the franchise. Time moves on, and arenas aren't cheap. Thankfully the Islanders found one that's not too far away.

As owner Charles Wang said on WFAN yesterday, lamenting the failure of his many efforts to keep the team in Nassau: "It's been a long journey. But we saw the light at the end of the tunnel. We're very happy to come to it."

Relocation Blues: Been Through This; Lived Through This

This is absolutely not the same, but I'm going to tell it anyway: I've been through this before.

As many regular readers know, I grew up in St. Louis, where my Al Arbour-revering father guided me to follow the Blues and the Islanders. Outside of the first expansion Cup finals, the Blues were always suffering tough luck. Their closest pre-2000 shot at the President's Trophy, they fell just short in 1981 to the Isles. They were owned by a dog food company. They tried to move to Saskatoon, but the league blocked it, so the dog food company responded by not drafting anyone in 1983.

Needless to say, Blues fans have been through some hell.

They used to play in a great, historic, charming "old barn" too -- one I could bike to as a kid, as it was nestled up against a historic neighborhood. (No, they didn't have bike racks, but I could drop my bike off at a friend's or lock it up around a tree.) On game nights my father never paid for parking; we found a side street space and ended up walking half the distance to the arena.

In the 1990s during the arena boom -- ironically, when it was already clear the Coliseum needed replacement -- the Blues sealed an arena deal downtown: Rail transit access. Walkable from tons of office towers and white collar businesses. Luxury boxes. But also: Worse parking. The end of gameday routines at pizza joints and other stops near the old arena. No more biking to a game, either.

To really kick my nostalgia to the curb, they demolished The Arena and now the place is an office park. I think there's an Olive Garden too.

Despite my quibbles about ambiance and old memories, I know there's no way that team finds an owner in 1999, 2006 or 2012 (yeesh) without that building. And I know in life, things change. My dad's not around anymore. I never got to marvel with him at the hands of John Tavares or David Perron. Things change. My dad saw Al Arbour the bespectacled Blues (and Hawks, and Wings) defenseman.

Things change. But thankfully for us who survive, traditions can evolve.

Again, the scales of cities and distances in this comparison are vastly different, but the point is the outcome is the same: A beloved team isn't really "moving." It's changing addresses in a way that's good for the franchise, great for some fans and a heart-breaking end to traditions for others. Tailgaters' and many season-ticket holders' loss is Brooklyn fans' gain.

But it's not devastating. It's not Saskatoon. It's not Quebec or Kansas City or Seattle either.

It is, now and forever, the New York Islanders.

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