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Transcript: Brett Yormark on Islanders fans, traditions new and old and season tickets

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Within the sales pitch is some insight.

Very expensive suits.
Very expensive suits.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Believe me, I don't want this to go on any more than it already has. But there are some interesting points to be made in the Islanders Great Goal Horn Guffaw of 2015.

Barclays Center and Nets CEO Brett Yormark made an appearance on ESPN Radio's Michael Kay Show this afternoon to announce a couple of things: one was the return of the Islanders' original goal horn, ending the one-game reign of the shrill, subway inspired sounds heard on Monday night against Washington; and two was to implore fans to be a little more flexible, a little classier and to buy season tickets.

There's a lot to unpack here, so here's the full transcript for the audio-challenged (headings mine)

On the horn and the third jerseys:

First and foremost, I think we've been very sensitized to the traditions of Islanders hockey. We've done a lot of research, we've listened to the fans, I've personally spent a lot of time out on Long Island as has my team, and we take very seriously the job of relocating them here into the borough of Brooklyn and making sure we do it the right way.

At the same time, we must broaden the fanbase. We must reach out to Brooklyn-ites and areas beyond Brooklyn in order to grow this fanbase and in order to make this move viable from lots of different perspectives. And, Don, I know you spoke about the third jersey but let me just give you a sense there: it has nothing to do with the Nets. The colors of the borough are black and white. We need to connect and cement this team in Brooklyn in a couple of ways. One of the ways to do that, is by identifying this team with the colors of the borough.

But at the same time, we were very, very sensitive to the traditions of Islander hockey. And if you look at that jersey, the four stripes represent the four Stanley Cups. There is some trim in orange and blue that obviously infuses some of the history of the team. So everything we've done has really taken the Islander faithful into account. But also at the same time trying to create a little balance and making this team Brooklyn's team also. And if we can get to a point when the old and new meet each other at the right place, we're going to have a special moment in Brooklyn.

And the jersey is really one of the only things we've done in order to connect with the Brooklyn fan. The other thought that we had, obviously, was the goal horn. How do we do something that was authentic to Brooklyn, authentic to the subway and authentic to bringing a team into an urban market? We felt it was a good idea. And we will continue to explore ways in which we can identify this team in Brooklyn but not at the cost of taking away some of the core and meaningful traditions that have been around for years.

Because obviously we want to welcome Islanders fans from Long Island to Brooklyn, we want them to come as often as they want to and to embrace them.

On fan interactions gone awry:

The other thing I want to mention is that personally, I don't respect the way [Islanders fans] approached it. How they attacked our Twitter handle, the vocabulary they used in which to reference me and our organization.

Kay: Welcome to Twitter, Brett.

I understand that. But on the same token, I don't appreciate it. That being said, I read between the lines. And we want the fans to have a great experience at Barclays Center. So after meeting with my team today and understanding the pros and cons of going with something that's a little bit more Brooklyn versus something that's been around for a while, we've decided that for opening night, we will go back to the goal horn that's been around for years. And I'm not acquiescing to the Islander fans. What I am doing is doing the right thing. And the right thing is to welcome the Islander fans to Brooklyn, do it the right way and we feel this is part of that process.

It will be opening night and for the season. But at the same time, I just want them to understand, there has to be a balance of new and old in order to grow this fanbase but also maintain the hardcore fanbase that currently exists.

On traditions coming to Brooklyn:

Don, I agree with you. But they also have to look at this thing as what have we done? Our creative positioning has been Tradition Has A New Home and we've been very sensitive to it. We didn't touch the jerseys other than introducing the third jersey. We're hanging all the banners so when they come here, they think, "Boy, all the tradition has come here and all the history has come here to Brooklyn." We brought in the original organ that was in the Coliseum. We're bringing in the longtime PA announcer. In fact, the organist, the player is coming to Brooklyn. We created the Legends Club of all the Islander greats so that they're involved in the community here in Brooklyn, they're at games and they maintain a great position with the franchise going into Brooklyn. We have done an enormous amount of work making sure that we maintain the traditions. The only two things that even speak of Brooklyn are the third jersey and this goal horn idea.

And we will continue to explore ways to infuse a little Brooklyn and I promise to do my best to not compromise any traditions. But I just need Islander fans to understand, there must be a balance.

On fans putting tickets where their mouths are:

This is where, hopefully, I can encourage Islander fans to be even more supportive. Of the people that comment, and in fact there was a petition that was done by about 650 fans, only 30 were season ticket holders. So my point here is, it's great to comment, about what we're doing and be critical of it. But I would ask all those people who signed the petition, now that you've got your goal horn, to buy season seats - My sales team is standing by right now - and support the Islanders in Brooklyn. Don't just support them on Twitter with criticism of what we're doing. But vote with your wallet, support them with your wallet and and come see islanders hockey in Brooklyn.

Thoughts:

  • Last things first: Yormark makes a lot of good points (we'll get to them in a minute) but he submarines the whole thing with his ill-timed season ticket pitch at the end. I get what he's saying - that the pitchfork and torch-waving crowd doesn't necessarily represent the whole community - but it's the wrong thing at the wrong time. It definitely leaves a bad taste in fan's mouths and comes off as disingenuous and cold. And he was doing so well, too.
  • His real message, though, is a good one: His job isn't to pick up the team from Uniondale and drop it in Brooklyn without a scratch like a hired mover. His job is transplant and update the team, and make it tantalizing to both old fans and new ones. As a whole, hockey fans are very traditional and hate the idea of any change at all. So far, the Islanders have kept a lot of their existing elements with the biggest change being the venue itself. Many fans still need to come to grips with the idea that things will change and that some of the changes will be welcome and done for, if not our benefit, the expansion of the team's brand. Up until basically now, the Islanders "brand" was "losing hockey team" and it's longest standing tradition was an appearance at the Draft Lottery. This is the big time now. Deal with it.
  • That being said - and this was Yormark's other important point - if you have an issue with something, say so and please do it respectfully. We can (and I and Michael Kay both did) joke about this being the NHL or Twitter or Facebook or whatever. But we know better, and we should strive to have a discourse that isn't harsh, cruel or juvenile. The fact that he and the Barclays team are clearly reading and listening to what we say should be enough to tell you that there's another human being on the other side of that tweet and he/she are only doing their job.
  • I disagree a little with Kay co-host Don LaGreca about the fans reaction to the move. Many, many people are torn up about it for sure. But many are ready - and have been ready since 2012 - for the team to take the next step. The Islanders couldn't play at the Coliseum forever and a lot of fans are ready to embrace everything that's new. That doesn't mean they necessarily like everything, but it means they're open to see what's coming in the future.
  • After hearing his message, my message to Yormark is something I wrote about the Islanders Fisherman jersey:  

    One, there is Civic Pride and Sports Pride and the two don't always coincide. After 25 years, four Stanley Cups and countless memories, the classic Islanders logo meant more to sports fans than a naked attempt at garnering favor with the locals. Celebrating Long Island's history is appreciated. But doing it at the expense of a crest that held real weight to millions both on and outside Long Island was misguided

    Yormark can try to forge all the connections to Brooklyn he wants, but there's no guarantee that the fans will take to it. The traditions that people like will float to top and the rest will sink. In the last year, "Yes, Yes, Yes" has become a huge part of Islanders home games, and it has almost nothing to do with anything other than "people like it and it stuck."

    In other words, don't force the Brooklyn thing. Let the fans and the team make their own traditions and market them instead. They'll be more authentic than any sound effect or color combination the marketing team can come up with.