BROOKLYN - Charles Wang was true to his word: The New York Islanders are leaving Long Island.
The team owner, flanked by the mayor of New York City and other dignitaries, announced Wednesday the team would relocate to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn following the 2014-15 season, when the Isles' lease at the Nassau Coliseum expires.
The team has spent more than a decade trying to land a new arena on Long Island after their last attempt went down the drain when a bond issuance was defeated by county voters in August 2011. When the referendum failed, Wang said he would consider moving the team out of Nassau County.
The Islanders have called the Coliseum their home since 1972 when they entered the National Hockey League as an expansion team. The team quickly rose to the top, winning four-straight Stanley Cup championships from 1980 through 1983. The Isles remained a contender into the mid-1990s, but as other teams built new arenas and netted larger revenue streams, the Islanders struggled to sign top players.
The team hasn't won a playoff round since 1993 and missed the playoffs entirely in each of the last five seasons.
The performance drop also kept fans away. The team was 29th out of 30 teams in attendance last season. Since the 2005-06 season, they have never finished higher than 28th in attendance.
But Long Island's loss is Brooklyn's gain. For that borough, it's a hat-trick of sorts. Brooklyn first scored when it opened the Barclays Center. The National Basketball Association's Nets season starts next week and now they have a hockey team as well.
Team and league officials joined Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Borough President Marty Markowitz to announce the deal, which will keep the Islanders in Brooklyn for 25 years.
“When the New York Islanders came into existence in 1972, they shared the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum with the New York Nets,” said Islanders owner Charles Wang. “This announcement today reunites these two franchises.”
According to officials, Barclays Center currently has a capacity of 14,500 for hockey games, compared to the 16,200 capacity at the Coliseum.
“We don’t think the amount of seats makes a material difference,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. “The intimacy of this building is going to make watching hockey a terrific experience.”
Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray wished the Islanders good fortune in New York City.
"I am disappointed to learn of the Islanders’ plan to relocate to Brooklyn," Murray said. "They’ve been a valued part of this region’s identity, and we wish the team great success in the future. We hope Long Islanders will continue to cheer for the team.
One such fan is Charles McAnulla, who was standing outside Barclays Center in anticipation for the big announcement. McAnulla said he was thrilled to see his team play in Brooklyn.
“Long Island is my home but I’m extremely excited to see the team come to Brooklyn,” said McAnulla, 35, an Oceanside native living in Bensonhurst. “Perfect timing. Especially three years from now, it’s going to be beautiful here.”