Train*-ing Camp: Islanders Riding the Rails to Brooklyn

"Give me absolute control / Over every NY hockey soul..." - Bruce Bennett

*Yes, we went there.

Like it or not, the New York Islanders are becoming a bigger organization, and we are seeing that with some of the marketing and "business operations" maneuvers designed to build a little more buzz, draw a few more eyes, grow "the brand" and ultimately create a few more revenue opportunities down the line.

The move to Brooklyn isn't for another two seasons, but the transitional moves are already underway.

We can fret about the subtle aesthetic shift on the official website to a more Nets-like font -- with none some more black. We can worry about how much of the fanbase will come from old school and new school (and fake old school) in a couple of years.

But for a franchise long running on a budget in an outdated arena, with all the laughs and rips associated with both, some of this is overdue and ultimately should pay off.

This week's exhibit: How the Islanders are handling their first day of training camp, the "media day" of camp. Arthur Staple of Newsday first reported word last week that the first skate would be in Brooklyn Thursday, and Garth Snow (as well as players in the NHL media tour) mentioned over the weekend that they'd be taking the train there.

When you hear Snow, and Charles Wang, and individual players, say in separate interviews variations of "it's just a short train ride away," that is no accident. This is good PR, on-message behavior aimed at the skeptical diehard fan from further east on Long Island. Say it enough, and some of the holdouts who resist the idea of this move two years down the line will reconsider.

Moreover, show the players actually taking the train to the arena, and it becomes a visualized reality in the minds of fans.

As the fully announced details of the day show, this first day of camp is very much a media event. (Which is to say, it's an event they want the media to attend, follow, photograph, report, tweet, step over each other for scoops, etc. In a word: Make this news.)

That's why you have a schedule like this, set out like -- why, why it's set out almost like a train schedule:

  • 8:15 a.m.: Press Conference at Garden City Station with LIRR representatives and Islanders General Manager Garth Snow and Islanders players Matt Martin and Frans Nielsen
  • 8:51 a.m.: Train carrying Islanders and media leaves Garden City station
  • 9:35 a.m.: Team arrival, photo-op outside of the arena
  • 9:40 a.m.: Team photo-op outside arena on [media outlet of some sort] Plaza
  • 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.: Bruce Ratner and Brett Yormark to lead media on a tour of hockey set-up at Barclays Center
  • 10:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.: Group A on ice.
  • 11:45 a.m. – Live stream of practice begins on IslandersTV and www.barclayscenter.com.
  • 12 p.m.: Lunch is available in the Honda Club
  • 12 p.m. – 1 p.m.: Group B on ice
  • 1:20 p.m. – 1:40 p.m.: Charles Wang, Garth Snow, Jack Capuano available for questions in the Ortsbo Interview Room

Consistent with the direction of things -- the "power shift" if you will -- the events include Ratner and Yormark, the siren for this Brooklyn move and the lead on business operations, respectively. Charles Wang still owns the team, Garth Snow still runs hockey operations (and will no doubt continue to emphasize a "family" atmosphere within the team), but the other two will direct attention to the festival within, symbolically being photographed as part of the larger enterprise:

The Islanders players and coaching staff will pose for a group photo with [bank of some sort] Center Majority Owner and Developer Bruce Ratner and [financial outfit] Center CEO Brett Yormark on the [print outlet that never covers the Isles] Plaza in front of [English soccer league?] Center at 9:40 a.m.

Revenues, buzz, off-ice fanfare. This and an off-center scoreboard will all be worth it if it leads to a financial foundation for sustainable success on the ice. And either way, it sure beats moving to Quebec.

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