You're a busy guy so I won't take up too much of your time. I just wanted to tell you that you've got to cool it with interviews like the one Sports Illustrated just published with you.
I get where you're coming from. You're trying to get out in front of any potential bad press or concerns that could stop people from coming to see Islanders games at Barclays Center. That place is your baby. You want to personally tell as many people as you can that seeing a hockey game in Brooklyn is a great experience.
I also sympathize with your position of having to bridge the gap between creating new fans from people who have no idea who the Islanders are and keeping the existing ones, many of whom are on board and some of whom are so chronically apoplectic about everything this team does that they can barely see straight. To be blunt, there are a lot of people on both sides that you will never reach. Either they won't ever care about hockey or they will go to their graves cursing the day the Islanders left Nassau Coliseum.
Make no mistake: I am on your side. I want the Islanders and Barclays Center to have a successful relationship not only because I care about the team's long term future but also because the Nassau and Hempstead politicians who screwed the team for years can rot forever in the festering tar-covered wasteland they created for all I care. My experiences at Barclays have all been positive ones.
The thing is, you're going about this the wrong way. No one is buying what you're selling. Maybe the full court press worked with the Nets when you made a clean break between the Meadowlands and Brooklyn. But this is hockey. Hockey is different. Hockey fans are different.
You yourself said that you weren't a hockey fan before this year and are learning. I appreciate your honesty. As a hockey fan for over 30 years, I can tell you with great confidence three things about us are eternal:
- Hockey fans never forget a mistake. People still give the Islanders grief about uniforms they wore 20 years ago, contracts they signed 15 years ago and goals they gave up three years ago. Hockey fans remember everything just so they can use it as ammo later.
- Hockey fans are always upset or outraged about something. Islanders fans haven't been truly, completely happy since the Spring of 1983. Some have never been happy. But it's not just them. Name an NHL team and I'll tell you what its fanbase is pissed off about right now. The entire sport is powered by hatred and scorn.
- Hockey fans want hockey. Good, fun, winning hockey and a lot of it.
In other words, every single thing you and Barclays Center do will be examined under intense scrutiny, filtered through a lens of snark and sarcasm and filed for re-use at a later date. Fans around the league have been making fun of the Islanders' move to the arena since 2012. If you thought people were up in arms about a new goal horn or not watching warm-ups from the glass, you haven't seen anything. (Ask me about "Fighting vs. Non-Fighting" or "Stats vs. No Stats" for some real horror stories. Or, better still, don't.)
The other thing is that the Islanders are good. I'm sure you're aware of this. And saying stuff like - "You can watch the game on your mobile device. The game is on the scoreboard. There are many ways to view the game if you're in one of those obstructed seats" - isn't helping them in any way.
I know I'm cherry picking three sentences from an entire interview, but it doesn't matter. That kind of corporate marketing speak won't fly with hockey fans. In fact, it bombs so strongly that it actively hurts the team it's meant to help. Or, at least, the public perception of the team. No one cares that you're the arena CEO and not a member of the team's front office. As far as most people are concerned, you are a member of the Islanders.
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you're not. The team's future - both in the standings and at the gate - is in the hands of Garth Snow, Jack Capuano, John Tavares and about 25 other guys. They, and only they, will get more people through Barclays Center's doors.
Win and plenty of people will be coming to Atlantic Avenue and we'll all be happy. If they win and attendance doesn't increase, then they're basically the New Jersey Devils. There are worse things to be.
But you can't help them by talking. In that way, we're kind of in the same boat. Our happiness is predicated on the team's record. I wish it wasn't this way (believe me), but that's how it is.
So please stop doing interviews about getting Islanders fans to Barclays Center. It isn't helping. That might seem weird or contrary to good business practices, but remember: This isn't business, it's hockey.