By Daniel Friedman
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All Brett Yormark wants is for Islanders fans to have a first-class experience at Barclays Center.
Just ask him, like Sports Illustrated did recently. He’ll tell you all about how he’s bent over backwards to maintain the team’s tradition.
“And we really played up the fact that we’re changing the location but not the tradition. What you know about Islanders hockey is the same thing you’re going to experience in Brooklyn,” Yormark said recently. “We have the same organ, and the same organ player, the same PA announcer. We have the banners, some of the same rituals. There was a comfort level with respect to the transition.”
For a while, it seemed as though Yormark just needed some time and perspective to restore equilibrium.
We’re well past that point now. We’re at DEFCON 1. It’s time for him to go.
It’s time for the Islanders to start running the Islanders.
Barclays Center is a beautiful, state-of-the-art arena. It has a lot of elements that can be extremely beneficial to the Isles. But from a business standpoint, it’s management just doesn’t know how to work with a hockey team and its fans.
And besides, how many sports franchises are run by the arenas they play in? Doesn’t that sound completely ridiculous to anyone else?
First, it was the goal horn snafu. Then, the banners. Then, pregame warmups, which he attempted to fix with an even more asinine concept — handing out limited passes to season-ticket holders to go down to ice level before the game — before finally caving in.
“I think we’ve been very sensitized to the traditions of Islanders hockey. We’ve done a lot of research, we’ve listened to the fans. I’ve personally spent a lot of time out on Long Island as has my team, and we take very seriously the job of relocating them here into the borough of Brooklyn and making sure we do it the right way,” he said.
Meanwhile, Yormark took to the radio waves to call out his venue’s new hockey patrons.
“Personally, I don’t respect the way (Islanders fans) approached it. How they attacked our Twitter handle, the vocabulary they used in which to reference me and our organization,” Yormark said of the horn debacle. “I’m not acquiescing to the Islander fans. What I am doing is doing the right thing. And the right thing is to welcome the Islander fans to Brooklyn, do it the right way and we feel this is part of that process.”
He then went on to essentially say that fans should keep their mouths shut unless they were season ticket holders.
“It’s great to comment, about what we’re doing and be critical of it. But I would ask all those people who signed the petition, now that you’ve got your goal horn, to buy season seats — my sales team is standing by right now — and support the Islanders in Brooklyn,” he said. “Don’t just support them on Twitter with criticism of what we’re doing. But vote with your wallet, support them with your wallet and come see islanders hockey in Brooklyn.”
Now, he’s attempting to justify sitting in obstructed-view seats by saying that people can still view the game on their mobile devices and the arena video board — something he also mentioned when I asked him about the seats a few years ago during a media tour of the building.
“Do we have some obstructed seats? Yes we do. Are fans aware of those obstructed seats before they purchase them? Yes they are. There’s really nothing we’re going to do from a capital improvement standpoint. You can watch the game on your mobile device. The game is on the scoreboard. There are many ways to view the game if you’re in one of those obstructed seats,” he told SI.com.
Why would I go to the game if I was going to watch it on a screen and how can I stream it when it’s blacked out? He can’t be this clueless, can he?
He’s not clueless. It seems like he just doesn’t care. The only thing he cares about, from a business standpoint, is his approach, not what the fans really want.
It’s not so much Yormark’s mistakes as it is his responses to them. He thinks all of his ideas are fantastic and to heck with anyone who has the audacity to voice a dissenting opinion.
Why can’t Islander fans just leave him alone? Why can’t they just fall in line the way Nets fans apparently have?
Yormark simply doesn’t understand the fan base he got into bed with and, despite what he says, doesn’t appear to be all that interested in learning more about it. He keeps talking about how early it is, but that’s all a bunch of nonsense. He had years to prepare for this relocation.
“You gotta make the Barclays Center a destination. And it takes time. We’ve only been at this thing for four or five months,” said said. “The onus is on us. We have to make sure it’s a first-class experience, which we’re working on. The game experience we’re investing in. I think we’re doing all the right things, but we have to be patient. We’ve only been doing this since October.”
Since October, huh? Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe Yormark should’ve done more homework, unless of course that was never part of his plan.
For all the mistakes that have been made, it has been his responses that have ultimately told the real story here. Yormark always sounds frustrated, and he always throws in that little reminder that he has to market to Brooklyn, too. That he has to attract the causal NYC sports fan to Barclays Center in order to build up the fanbase.
And, to his credit, he has been very aggressive in terms of advertising and marketing the Islanders.
However, Yormark’s attitude doesn’t endear him to those who currently support the team or the ones that might in the future. How do you think it looks to the causal NYC sports fan when he goes on the radio and starts whining?
I’ve said many times that I think the move to Brooklyn has a lot of potential.
As long as Yormark is involved, unless he changes his approach as the face of things, it will likely never be realized.
Follow Daniel Friedman on Twitter at @bardownhowitzer