Physically, Frans Nielsen was at his stall inside the Islanders' training facility in Syosset.Mentally, he was at Washington's Verizon Center on the night of April 27.For it was on that night, in that venue, that the 2014-15 Islanders' season came to an end in an inglorious 2-1 loss to the Capitals in Game 7 of the Metropolitan Division Semifinals.
A year in which the Islanders recorded more than 100 points for the first time since 1983-84 ended with a dispiriting performance, in which Capitals goalie Braden Holtby only had to make 10 saves.
"To lose in the first round like we did in Game 7, you kind of go home with a feeling [it was] a bad season," Nielsen said. "You think about it most of the summer. I think we're [going to be hungrier] to get back [to the playoffs] and do better.
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"It definitely bothered me all summer. You want to get back there, you want to get another shot at that. It's really hard because we didn't play well in Game 7."
Not only did that loss end the Islanders season, it also ended their time in Nassau County. The Islanders have moved into Brooklyn's Barclays Center. And like any new relationship, there have been some growing pains.
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The New York Daily News reported team and building officials disagreed on the price points to have food and beverages available for team and league employees, and the media. The dispute came to a head when Barclays Center did not provide meals and drinks during the second preseason game, blaming "Islanders ownership and management" for the decision. There have also been silly public overreactions to the team and Barclays debuting a new third jersey and a new goal horn.
Still, according to CEO Brett Yormark, Barclays is "very, very excited about having in Brooklyn." During a nearly half hour question and answer session with reporters who cover the team prior to the first preseason game, Yormark outlined his vision for the future of the franchise in Brooklyn.
"We need to be sensitized, now moreso than ever, to the faithful," Yormark said. "Those who have been there since Day One and have shown so much support over the years. But at the same time for us to be successful, for this move to Brooklyn to be viable, we've got to expand the fanbase and compliment the fanbase that currently exists; reach out to those in Brooklyn and beyond and get them engaged. First with the sport of hockey and then two, to get them to be avid fans of the Islanders. We think we're doing that."
To that end, advertisements for the Islanders are visible around Barclays Center itself, Atlantic Terminal and the Atlantic Center Mall; new commercials have aired on television, and billboards have popped up throughout the borough. Also, Barclays created campaigns entitled 'Tradition Has A New Home,' and 'Brooklyn Scores' in order to serve the dual purposes of attracting Long Island fans and Brooklynites.
According to Yormark, ticket sales have been "robust," noting "thirty-three percent" of total ticket buyers are Brooklynites and Manhattanites. Moreover, "thirty percent, believe it or not, are coming from Nassau and Suffolk [Counties]," said Yormark said, who noted other buyer are coming from "Queens, Staten Island, Bronx; six percent from New Jersey, two percent from Connecticut."
One of the very public concerns about the move has been whether Barclays can be a hockey venue. The building possesses architectural and design quirks insofar as it pertains to sightlines for hockey. Still, Yormark believes when the Islanders open up against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks on Oct. 9, Barclays will be a NHL-caliber facility.
"The building is ready for hockey," said Yormark, who estimated that the Islanders' dressing room was "probably about 90 percent done. There's a couple little tweaks here and there; we just met with [Islanders GM] Garth [Snow] just to understand what some of those are, but by opening night I think we'll be exactly where we need to be. The ice, from what I understand, the players really liked it. We've worked all summer long to make sure we have the right environment here."