When my parents, my girlfriend and I arrived at our seats just after puck drop and opening faceoff, I promised myself I wouldn't compare Barclays Center to the Coliseum too much. For one, it just wasn't a fair comparison--we had seats only a few rows behind the visitors' bench at the old place, and here we were a dozen rows from the roof. I tried not to think too much what our $60 tickets would have gotten in Nassau. And I specifically told myself not to utter the words "corporate sh*thole," which had been thrown around by other fans.
It was my birthday, my girl had given me a Billy Smith jersey for a present, and it was time to watch my team play live in their new home for the first time.
But man, was it a struggle.
For one, we lost 5-3 to the Bruins, so there wasn't a whole lot to cheer about after the 1st period. Overall play was just flat after the first 20 minutes, though it felt good to stretch our arms in our first "Yes! Yes! Yes!" chant in Brooklyn.
We sat in Section 222, separated from the visiting Bruins fans by one aisle. We drowned out their "Here we go Bruins" chants with even louder booing all night long. It was a tense, lackluster atmosphere. And that was the first thing I noticed...
1. This was a different (ahem, drunken) crowd. I get it...it's a Friday night in New York City, hardly anyone has to drive, there are excellent bars around to pregame in, and every day is a good reason to get plastered. By all means, cut loose.
But be. Aware. Of. Your surroundings. And that's for people wearing both teams' jerseys.
Barclays Center is steep. The rows are quite narrow. Even sober people trip on them.
My mom is nearly sixty years old, has to travel with a heart monitor, and can only take the stairs somewhat slower than a sprint while gripping the rail. Don't bomb your way by her on your way up or downstairs.
Don't cap off the night by getting into a fistfight on the train home.
And certainly don't give my girl the bully shoulder when she's half your size and carrying $40 of food and drink. It almost made me understand why last call was after 2nd intermission, which made me feel as if I was at the Meadowlands.
And unless you're letting someone through, taking a photo, or celebrating a great play, SIT DOWN. I yelled "down in front" so many times I felt like Wesley Snipes in New Jack City:
Anyway, enough about the drunken reprobates as they aren't really the arena itself. Which brings me to my next point:
2. There is hardly any good beer. Yes, I wrote the Islander Fan's Guide to Craft Beer, and this may not seem like a big deal. But really. How many excellent craft breweries are located only a few subway stops from Barclays? At least get some Brooklyn Brewery stuff on draft (the founder over there has expressed his dismay at being shut out as well).
The Coliseum wasn't exactly Craft Beer Central either, but it had more options than cans of Brooklyn Lager for the paltry sum of $12 a pop. Has anyone seen any other offerings there? There should be a showcase of Long Island's and Brooklyn's finest brews. And Bud and Coors are available everywhere for those who prefer them. Then the arena can ditch the "no alcohol in the 3rd period" policy, because you're more likely to drink less when you drink quality. Less drunken boorish behavior is a good thing.
If all I had to drink was Bud Light and Coors Light, I'd want to punch somebody on the train home too!
3. The Mets were here! In a show of orange and blue solidarity, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, and several other Mets were in attendance with their wives and girlfriends. There were just as many chants of "Let's Go Mets!" as there were "Let's Go Islanders!" That was nice. The only non-hockey celebrity I saw at the Coliseum was Keanu Reeves, and he was there for the Leafs.
4. The sightlines are excellent. My seats were not expensive, and I could see verything on the ice perfectly. I could get around the concourses easily. Seats were comfortable and the food is pretty good (one of the better burgers I've had at an arena).
The place really is nice, and there's something special about being in a new arena for the first time. And I can't wait to check out the neighborhood bars for a Lighthouse Hockey meetup sometime. Let me know about those weekends!
This writeup may not have seemed that way from the start, but my first Isles experience at Barclays wasn't all bad...just mixed at best. I'm sure I would have had a better time if the score was 6-5 Isles in OT, and I'm sure a Friday night game with lots of twenty-somethings who love to drink is different from a weekend day game with lots of families. But I have to embrace this new way of seeing my team. No more "easy nights out of the lot." Instead of horns honking "Let's Go Islanders," we have a river of orange and blue jerseys clapping it out on its flow to Atlantic Avenue. And I never thought I would see a New York City subway car full of Islander jerseys.
I plan to go back and I am far from writing it off, but I'm just not brimming with love for the Barclays Center just yet.
Written by Matt P