With today's announcement that the New York Islanders are Brooklyn bound, New York City will be home to two National Hockey League arenas that are either new or renovated. Barclays Center recently opened to the public and is ready for the inaugural season of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team. The Islanders are moving to Brooklyn in 2015 after the lease expires at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in suburban Uniondale.
I lived in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Windsor Terrace this past summer and one day in early September I decided to snap some photos of the under construction Barclays Center. One of the greatest advantages to the arena is how transit accessible it is. Eleven subway lines and eleven bus lines stop near the arena and the Long Island Railroad's Atlantic Terminal is located across the street from the arena. The LIRR stop will make it convenient for Islanders fans traveling from other areas in Long Island. Plus there are 400 free bicycle parking spaces.
Madison Square Garden, the home of the Rangers hockey team and Knicks basketball team, is in the middle of a three-year, $850 million interior and exterior renovation that is transforming the historic arena into a modern, 21st century sports and entertainment venue. And MSG in midtown Manhattan sits atop the busiest train station in the United States -- Penn Station, which is going to be renovated and the main terminal replaced by a new high-speed rail hub called Moynihan Station, located at the Farley Post Office Building across Eighth Avenue. And there are thirteen subway lines that stop at or near MSG.
So with the easy mass transit access to both MSG and Barclays, it should provide an even more exciting rivalry between the Rangers and Islanders and the Knicks and Nets.
Here are photos of Brooklyn's brand new Barclays Center:
Here are photos of Manhattan's Madison Square Garden under renovation:
The New York Islanders need a new home. The glory years at Nassau Coliseum when the Isles were hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup on a regular basis are long gone. The 40-year-old arena in Uniondale (opened February 11, 1972) is showing its age. Simply put, it is not fit for a modern day NHL franchise. How bad is it? Last March it was reported that claims of asbestos contamination were being investigated. Even if the New York Department of Labor concludes that the air is safe, who wants to go to a hockey game in a building with an asbestos problem?
And it isn't just asbestos. The arena is the second oldest in the NHL after Madison Square Garden, which opened on February 11, 1968. MSG also had asbestos fall from the ceiling last year, postponing a Knicks basketball game. But the world's most famous arena is in the middle of a massive $850 million, three-summer renovation project. Nassau is also the second smallest arena (16,250 seating capacity) after the home of the Winnipeg Jets, MTS Centre (15,015).
So Nassau needs to go. But where will the Isles go? There are a few possibilities. First, it should be noted that the lease runs until 2015, so barring health inspectors declaring the building unsafe due to asbestos contamination, the Isles could very well stay there another three years. Back in 2004 Isles owner Charles Wang proposed the Lighthouse Project, which would have have built a new arena on the same site along with housing, hotels, restaurants, stores and offices. Unfortunately for Islanders fans who want to keep the team on Long Island, Nassau County voters struck down the project last year.
So unless Wang pulls off a miracle, three years from now the Islanders will likely no longer be residing on the Island. Well, at least not in the suburbs. Did you know that the New York City borough of Brooklyn is technically a part of Long Island? And that the Brooklyn Nets will be playing in the sparkling new Barclays Center next season? And that the Isles are playing a preseason game against the New Jersey Devils in Brooklyn on Oct. 2?
But before looking at the likelier option of the Islanders moving to Brooklyn, there is a city in Canada that is hungry for professional hockey to return. Quebec City lost the Nordiques in 1995 when the team relocated to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche. Quebecers have recently been forced to watch another Canadian city get back their team when the Jets returned to Winnipeg. How passionate are Nordiques fans to get a team back? Well, they certainly have their sights set on the Islanders. In fact, in December 2010 an estimated 1,100 Nordiques fans arrived in a bus caravan from Quebec City to invade Nassau Coliseum and voice their support for the Isles moving north.
With fans willing to travel 550 miles from Quebec City to Uniondale, N.Y., the people want the NHL back. And the arena is coming too. In fact, what perfect timing, the New Quebec City Amphitheatre, also called Quebecor Arena, is due to open in 2015, the same year the lease expires at Nassau. And it will seat 18,000, which is more than the Barclays Center, which will only be able to seat 14,500 for hockey, making it the smallest arena in the NHL. There is the possibility that the Columbus Blue Jackets or the Phoenix Coyotes could relocate to Quebec City, which would provide much relief to Islanders fans. But if the Coyotes get their ownership issues sorted out they will stay in the desert and the NHL really wants Columbus to work out, even placing the All Star game there next season. And even if the Jackets or Coyotes decide to move, there is no guarantee it would be to Quebec. Other relocation options include Seattle, where there is a proposal to build a new arena in the SoDo neighborhood; Kansas City, the home of the new Sprint Center; and Hamilton, Ontario, home to Copps Coliseum.
But Brooklyn is the better and likelier option for the Islanders. Even with the low seating capacity, Barclays Center is a natural fit. First, the location would allow the Isles to retain their identity and fan base. And the team has an agreement with their cross-town rival Rangers that allows them to relocate anywhere in Long Island, including Brooklyn and Queens. In addition to the preseason game against the Devs, Russia's Kontinental Hockey League will be playing some games at Barclays, so it is definitely hockey ready. But NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said recently that, in addition to the small capacity, the Barclays Center is hard to get to for Islanders fans living in Queens and Long Island. Bettman made this comment despite the fact that Barclays sits atop one of the largest transit hubs in New York, with easy access to many subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road commuter trains.
What do you think? Will the Islanders stay in Nassau? Move to Brooklyn? Relocate to Quebec City? Skate somewhere else?
NEW YORK -- The bad guys won. It happens. You don't always get what you deserve and justice isn't always served. The Yankees of hockey, the New York Rangers, paid big money for Brad Richards and he delivered. And arrogant head coach John Tortorella finally beat the Washington Capitals after three tries. It only took Game 7 at home at MSG in a tight 2-1 game that went down to the wire.
The Rangers won't win the Cup this year, as much as their obnoxious fans chant "We want the Cup!" after they barely survived the Caps. The New Jersey Devils will beat the Rangers, if not in a sweep then close to it. Sorry, Rangers fans. This isn't 1994.
Caps fans deserve better, we always do. But there is a lot to be proud of this season and I'm so happy that we made it this far. We earned a ton of respect thanks to Dale Hunter's defense-first system. Every player bought in and the Caps were able to defy the odds by beating the Boston Bruins in Game 7 at TD Garden, and then taking the Rangers to the limit in a thrilling game seven in New York.
As disappointing as this loss is, and believe me, Caps fans are used to these heartbreakers through the history of this franchise, there is a lot to build on and the future looks bright in Washington. The Caps finally have an identity that will eventually push them over to a deep playoff run and a shot at the Stanley Cup. In less than a season, they transitioned from a run-n-gun, offense-first team, to a defense-first, shot-blocking machine (the most shot blocks in the postseason) and a team that set an NHL record in the first round with seven straight one goal decisions and then another NHL record in the second round by becoming the first team to win four straight times following an overtime loss.
I watched the game at The Standings, a Caps bar in the East Village, and was glad to be among my fellow Caps fans in the heart of New York City. Caps fans are the best fans in professional sports. We will be rewarded in this lifetime and all the heart breaks will lead up to the moment of glory.
So the most arrogant organization in the NHL can think they have the Cup. And believe me, from Torts on down they won't give the Caps credit for battling hard to the end. But I know every Caps fan will be rooting for the Devils to dismantle the Blue Shirts and every Caps fan should be proud of our boys from D.C.
Hold your heads up high, boys. The future is brighter than ever.
New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella won't give the Washington Capitals credit for battling hard and hanging tough. But this Caps fan will give the Rangers credit for winning Game 5 at Madison Square Garden in stunning fashion. The Caps were up 2-1 when Joel Ward took a four-minute high sticking penalty and Brad Richards tied it up with 6.6 seconds left in regulation.
With the Caps still shorthanded at 1:35 of overtime, Marc Staal scored the game winner to send the sellout crowd at MSG into a frenzied celebration and break the hearts of Capitals fans.
So, kudos to the Rangers for their relentless forecheck and never-say-die attitude. They are a great team. That said, every Caps fan knows the history of our team choking in the playoffs and being unable to get over that second-round hump.
We want to believe this year will be different after dethroning the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in overtime of Game 7 at TD Garden (thank you, Wardo, for the biggest goal in Caps history). But with all the adversity the Caps have faced this season, including a triple-overtime loss to the Rangers at Verizon Center, tonight's defeat is perhaps the toughest to take and the toughest to bounce back from.
The Caps were so close to taking the 3-2 series lead with the chance to end the series in D.C. on Wednesday. Now the Caps are in the familiar territory of trying to salvage the season and defy the odds. I don't think many pundits gave the Caps a fighting chance in this series, and they have surprised a lot of people by battling the Rangers this hard. Everyone to a man has been sacrificing and giving 110 percent so you can’t fault the effort. Tonight Captain Alex Ovechkin played a whale of a defensive game by blocking shots and being responsible with the puck in his own zone. Ovie earned a ton of respect from his mates when he went down to block a shot late in the third period. When the leader of the team is sacrificing his body, it motivates the rest of the team to give that extra effort they didn’t think they had in them.
All coach Dale Hunter asks of the boys is to work hard and battle. And they have been doing that the whole series. That is why as disappointing as it will be for Caps fans if the team doesn’t win the next two games, and as frustratingly familiar it will be to exit the playoffs early, there is a lot to be proud of this season with all the adversity the Caps have faced. They barely made the playoffs when no one gave them a chance, including me. They beat the Bruins when no one gave them a chance, including me. They are taking the Rangers to game six when no one thought this would be a long series, including me.
Maybe the Caps have another miracle coming on Wednesday and on Saturday. I do know the Caps will battle to the bitter end. They will never give up. It's called mental toughness. Here's to a great series and hopefully a win on Wednesday night. Let's go, Caps!
Buckle up for another intense battle in the second round between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers. These two teams needed seven games to win round one, and seven games will likely decide this fierce battle. Tonight the Caps held serve and got the split at Madison Square Garden thanks to a game-winning goal by Captain Alex Ovechkin to make the final score 3-2. The series now heads to the Verizon Center 1-1.
There were many question marks regarding rookie goaltender Braden Holtby after a shaky game one. How would the 22-year-old respond to his first bout of adversity in his first playoff experience? It's so important to have confidence in your netminder. With that confidence shaken how would the team respond? Well, Holtby had a strong performance against the Rangers and was back to the same goalie that outdueled veteran Tim Thomas in round one. Holtby is back in a big way and that is good news for Caps fans.
You also need puck luck in the postseason. On Saturday afternoon the Caps hit the iron four times. Nothing went their way. Well, tonight the Rangers banged the post twice, including a Michael Del Zotto rocket near the end of the game that would have tied it up.
Lastly, Ovechkin played arguably the best game of his career in the playoffs. Earlier in the day he was quoted in the Washington Post saying that he needs to make better decisions and be smarter on the ice. That shows self awareness and a new found maturity that's been often lacking in Ovie's career, thus the reputation as having a low hockey IQ. Tonight Ovechkin looked like a man determined, someone serious about his responsibility on this team. When Ovie scored on the power play late in the third period to retake the lead after New York had fought back to tie the game, it lifted the entire team. Everyone seemed to work just a little bit harder. Gave of themselves just a little bit more. And the Caps hung on for the victory.
Ovechkin upped his game. Holtby bounced back. But the Rangers are relentless. They never give up. And plus they are blessed with Henrik Lundquist in goal so they are always assured of being in the game and having a chance. This is going to be a close series that both teams are comfortable playing. It will be tense for Rangers and Capitals fans, but for hockey fans it is going to be another wild ride from two great teams.
As I write this review of HBO's debut episode of "24/7 Flyers-Rangers: Road to the NHL Winter Classic," I'm riding on an Amtrak train through central Philadelphia en route to New York City's Penn Station. As we speed past the rundown rowhouses and abandoned warehouses of this gritty, greasy city, I can't help but think how Season 2 (Caps-Pens last year) of this Emmy Award-winning reality series is as much a tale of two cities as it is about two fierce rivals on the ice.
But the real story is that the two teams and the cities they represent have much in common.
Philly and NYC, despite the popular imagination of big bankers on Wall Street and UPenn rowers on the Schuylkill River, are actually deep down two blue collar cities with many similarities that are brilliantly captured by the HBO cameras. These two rusted out titans of the 20th century are attempting to reinvent themselves to stay on top in the 21st century with the same can-do, blue collar work ethic that made these magnificent metropolisis the economic engines of a bygone era in America. The same can be said of their hard working professional ice hockey teams.
The opening montage sets up the blue collar theme of the show as Rangers players get to Madison Square Garden by cab, subway and even walking. Rangers forward Ryan Callahan is from hardscrabble Rochester, New York, and the cameras show him meeting his family after playing a game against the Sabres in nearby Buffalo. In perhaps the most touching moment of the hour-long episode we see wheelchair-bound 95-year-old Grandma Callahan beaming with pride as she greets Ryan.
In Philly, the cameras follow Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds as he heads to the opening of an ice rink dedicated to helping inner city youth. Simmonds, who is Afro-Canadian, is joined by Flyers owner Ed Snider at the event.
Episode two airs tonight at 10 p.m. and this fan of the show is looking forward to seeing the urban backdrops of the Big Apple and City of Brotherly Love as much as the Rangers and Flyers.
It's not often you get the chance to see all three of New York's hockey teams in two nights, but that is exactly what I did. I'm in NYC for the holidays and decided to take in a couple of games -- Sunday night the Devils-Leafs at The Rock and Monday night the Rangers-Isles at MSG.
Newark and Manhattan are only a few train stops apart, but the atmosphere inside of the Prudential Center and Madison Square Garden could not have been any more different.
Sunday, New York and most of the Eastern Seaboard got pounded by a massive snow storm that dumped over 20 inches of snow along with wind gusts of 30 to 40 mph. It was the sixth largest snow storm on record in NYC and newscasters and public officials were advising people to stay home.
So what did I do? What any crazy hockey fan would do. I walked from my sister's apartment in Battery Park City through the snowy, wind-whipped winter night to the World Trade Center PATH station and traveled via train to Newark's Pennsylvania Station and then somehow found The Devils' home arena in the almost zero visibility weather.
What happens if you have a hockey game and no one shows up? That's almost what happened in Newark on Sunday night as the Devils and Leafs, both last place teams, dropped the puck shortly after 7 p.m. before a nearly empty arena. The announced crowd was a little over 5,000, but the actual attendance was probably closer to 3,000. And there were lots of hardy Leafs fan in the stands waving Canadian flags and Maple Leafs banners, and chanting "Go Leafs Go!."
Toronto won the game 4-1 in a snoozer. This was professional hockey at its worst. The highlight of the night was a fight between the Devils' 100-million-dollar bust Ilya Kovalchuk and Toronto's Captain Dion Phaneuf.
The Devils' sorry season continues. They have a long way to go to becoming a winning organization again. It really is rock bottom at The Rock. But returning interim head coach Jacques Lemaire knows how to win, guiding the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 1995. He took over for fired coach John MacLean and while suffering through losses in his first two games, once he has some time with the team, there should be more positive results on the ice.
But one thing I've got to say is that the brave souls in Devils jerseys who ventured out to the game on Sunday night were mostly respectful and cheered on the Devils, albeit sometimes sarcastically, despite the many opportunities for the boo birds to come out with awful play after awful play by their home team. On the other hand, the Leafs fans were just plain obnoxious, at one point chanting "Kovalchuk Sucks!" and celebrating like they weren't actually a team in last place in the Northeast Division with only 30 points.
The attendance was so sparse (New Jersey transit shut down all bus service at 8:30 so many fans left early) that halfway through the second period, the PA announcer said that all ticket holders in the upper bowl could move down to ice level. Soon after that there was a mad dash to get the best seats as close to the ice as possible. It was great for the Leafs fans who got to harass NJ's struggling goalie Martin Brodeur, who is suffering through one of his worst seasons as a pro, and then his replacement Johan Hedberg.
As the game ended, a disgruntled Devils fan stood up and yelled "You're trash! You're garbage! You belong in a garbage can!" And the frustration continued at the exit as some angry fans started yelling when the staff ran out of free Devils cheerleaders calendars. Then it was off into the cold, snowy night in Newark and a train ride back to Manhattan that took twice as long as usual because of the snow storm.
Later that night I watched a replay of the Islanders game on TV. There were only a few hundred people who made it out to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. And most of those people were Montreal Canadiens fans, making the game have the surreal quality of being a road game for the hometown Islanders. With the Long Island Rail Road service suspended because of the snow, and the roads virtually unpassable, it is a mystery how these Habs fans managed to make it out to the game. They didn't have much to root for as the Isles won 5-1. But even with the win, it had to have been disconcerting for the Isles players to look up and see a mostly empty arena except for a few hundred fans cheering the visiting team.
The next night I took the subway to the most famous arena in the world -- Madison Square Garden. While the snow was still fresh on the ground and the bitterly cold wind was causing snow drifts, thousands of New Yorkers piled into MSG to cheer on their beloved Blueshirts as they prepared to play the Isles.
I didn't have a ticket so I waited outside until after the game had started and was lucky enough to nab a $185 club seat for $40 from a fan who was desperate to get rid of his tickets. The seat was awesome, only about ten rows up and just to the right of the visitor net.
While MSG is certainly showing its age (there are plans for a multi-million dollar renovation), there is a special feeling being in this historic complex. It is humbling to see the Rangers Stanley Cup banners hanging from the rafters, dating all the way back to the 1920s, as the Original Six franchise this year celebrates its 85th anniversary.
The atmosphere was electric as the Blueshirts put on a show for their loyal and boisterous fans by dominating the Isles after breaking a tight game open in the second period to skate to a 7-2 win. The 18,200 seat arena was nearly full for the big win despite the snow.
Unlike the few Devils fans and zero Islanders fans the night before, on the night after the historic snow storm Rangers fans entered the cold New York night happy with a win.