With one small word, Travis Hamonic summarized an entire Islanders organization’s sentiment on its new home.
“Wow,” the Islanders defenseman said when asked what word best described his reaction to the Barclays Center following the first day of training camp at the franchise’s future rink. “I’ve seen pictures, [but] this is the first time that I’ve really gotten out and walked up to it.”
The Islanders took the Long Island Rail Road from Garden City, in Hempstead, N.Y. to the Atlantic Avenue stop in Brooklyn Thursday morning, then posed for a photo in front of the building before taking to the ice for the first of two on-ice sessions at the $1-billion arena on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
“That’s one of the coolest-looking, neatest buildings I’ve seen from the outside,” Hamonic said. “It’s really neat. I’m pretty excited to call it home for the length of my contract, and the Islanders are really excited about it, too.”
Thursday’s sessions mark the only time this season the team will practice at Barclays, although it will host a preseason game Sept. 21 between the Islanders and Devils.
The Islanders drilled under the organization’s four Stanley Cup Championship banners, which will be hung from the rafters for the game against the Devils.
“As far as buildings, you see other teams in the league starting to get their facilities,” Hamonic said. “The sense of competing with everyone else in that area, [owner] Charles [Wang] did a great job with.”
Last October, the Islanders, NHL and Barclays Center announced in a joint press conference that the team and facility had agreed to a 25-year “iron-clad” lease agreement beginning in 2015-16. When asked if he foresaw any way the Islanders could get out of their current lease agreement with Nassau County for use of the Nassau Coliseum prior to 2015-16, Wang reiterated that the franchise plans “to honor the commitment to the lease up to the [2014-15] season, that’s what our plan is and we’ll still stick by it. We obviously will look at every opportunity to do what’s best for everyone involved in it. We always wanted to get here as soon as possible. But again, we’re living to our lease. We’re honoring our lease.”
Wang also deflected talk about the possibility of the Islanders playing regular season games at Barclays during the 2014-15 season, saying he didn’t “know what the plan is. I don’t know if it makes sense, to set up to do that for how many games.”
Still the purpose of the day’s activities was to give the Islanders the first glimpse of their new digs. And what they saw, albeit unfinished, amazed them.
“It’s beautiful. Those of you who have been here before start to understand some of the things you see around you. At first blush, when you look at this, what’s going on, it’s unbelievable,” Wang said. “When you come out there and see the white ice and the big logo, your heart [pounds]. It’s unbelievable.”
Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.