The latest speed bump in the Islanders' trip to Brooklyn is a change in a long-standing practice, not just for Isles fans but for customers all over the NHL.
In limiting the ability to watch the teams's pre-game warm-ups from behind the glass to only season ticket holders (and a select few season ticket holders at that), the Barclays Center is removing a very special part of the NHL experience that a lot of people hold very dear.
I'm stopping just short of saying it's a "tradition," because not everyone took part in it. But for many, having a spot next to the glass and watching the team stretch and shoot before the game is as much a part of the evening as the Star Spangled Banner. It's a rare chance to get up close to the players in a relaxed moment that's much more intimate than the game is, considering that for the next two-and-a-half hours, you'll be sitting 250 feet away while they'll be trying to keep an oncoming defenseman from obliterating them.
In that few minutes, you can show a player a sign, wave, watch how they interact with teammates or opponents, see how they're concentrating or, in the most rare and special cases, take away a souvenir.
In yesterday's Bit post, community member PuxCoach told a story that's indicative of how much that short time can mean to someone, particularly a young someone:
Last season I took my 11 year-old to a game at the Coliseum, and we got there early enough to watch the pre-game skate from alongside the tunnel to the Islanders' locker room. As they went off the ice, my son got high-fives from Cizikas and Kulemin (the latter of whom scored in the game, for which my son took full credit. LOL). He was so thrilled to be acknowledged by a couple of his hockey heroes, and he still talks about it today. For him, it was an unforgettable moment that he will always remember as one of the biggest thrills of his childhood. That simple gesture will pay dividends for the Islanders for a very long time, because of the impact it had on my son and other kids like him, and the impact it will continue to have when they are old enough to buy tickets on their own.
I can't afford season tickets, and even if I could, I probably couldn't get out to enough games to make it worthwhile. I suspect I'm in the majority in that regard. It's too bad that kids like my son won't have the opportunity to experience something like this going forward. I know Mr. Yormark would like to sell more season tickets, but I would suggest to him that Barclay's would be better off with a policy that will breed a generation of new fans, rather than this short-sighted policy that takes into account only the current bottom line.
Do you have a memorable (or even an unmemorable) story of being down near the glass before an Islanders game? It doesn't matter which era or which game or which players were involved. If you were there, in that moment that's special to you, drop it in the comments.
I have no idea if they'll be helpful in swaying Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark to change the team's policy. I understand the push to sell tickets and the desire to offer exclusive access to those who sign up for season passes.
But these stories are part of your personal Islanders and NHL history, and seeing less people have a chance to create similar ones is a sad and unnecessary change to make.