They were cheering for the home team, but most of the fans were still visitors.
Barclays Center played host to its newest tenants — and Brooklyn’s newest professional sports team — for the Blue and White Scrimmage on July 8, an intra-squad exhibition featuring nearly all of the organization’s prospects. The logo at center ice said “New York Islanders in Brooklyn,” but there were plenty of Islanders in the stands, too — Long Islanders, that is.
More than 6,000 fans showed up to watch the good-natured contest, many of them bursting onto Atlantic Avenue from the Long Island Rail Road station beneath the arena to catch a glimpse of the future for a team that is no longer just their own.
“I have mixed feelings about new bandwagon fans,” said Kim Brooks of New Hyde Park, a lifelong Isles fan who was not in favor of the team moving to Brooklyn, but has already purchased tickets to 15 games for the 2015-16 season. “I was kind of pissed off with how many people decided to become fans last just year because the team was good all of a sudden, and that’s probably going to happen again now that they’re in Brooklyn.”
The suburban visitors did not waste much time in bringing the spirit of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the team’s old home rink, to Barclays Center.
Fans yelled “Yes! Yes! Yes!” in unison after goals were scored, and they borrowed the tune of the familiar Spanish soccer chant “Ole, ole, ole, ole” to sing “Ho-Sang, Ho-Sang, Ho-Sang, Ho-Sang” in honor of Joshua Ho-Sang, one of the team’s top prospects and a soon-to-be fan favorite, who dazzled the home crowd with three assists. And, of course, they mercilessly booed a couple of fans in attendance wearing the colors of their hated rival, the New York Rangers.
Many of the fans in attendance were making their first trek to the team’s new home, and even though many were still stewing over the relocation, the impressive new facilities may yet win them over.
“I was upset by the move,“ admitted Nick Monforte of West Hempstead. “But I’m keeping an open mind. I think being in Brooklyn will make the team more attractive to good players.”
But the Islanders have always had fans outside of Long Island, like one born-and-bred Brooklyn resident who has bled blue and orange his entire life.
“It’s always been hard to find fellow fans in the area, but with the team doing so well the past few years, more fans have been coming out of the woodwork,” said Patrick Hickey, Jr., who did not go to the scrimmage but plans to attend as many games as he can once the season is underway. “Seeing the team in Brooklyn not only makes it easier to see them live, but it changes the whole dynamic of hockey in the borough. It’s going to be amazing.”