New York is not much of a hockey town. The Rangers are the top team in the league right now, and still the awfulness of the Knicks gets more attention. The Super Bowl is sucking up a lot of air time, but even if the Rangers win the Stanley Cup—their first since 1994, second since 1940—the back pages of the tabs will still spend most of their time on off-season baseball news. Sean Avery’s sartorial choices attract more attention than a Henrik Lundqvist shut out.
Thus The Observer almost slipped on the ice in surprise when two reports surfaced yesterday about hockey coming to some unlikely places.
The first is not all that surprising: The New York Islanders, truly an abysmal franchise, will play at the Barclays Centre next season. It’s only a preseason game, but one that Brooklyn hockey fans should enjoy, especially as it will be against cross-Hudson rivals the New Jersey Devils—the Rangers still think themselves too good to leave Manhattan perhaps.
Whether this move would ever become permanent remains unclear. It has been a possibility for some time as the Islanders fight for a new arena in Nassau County. In August, voters rejected a bond issuance for a new arena, part of a larger redevelopment called The Lighthouse and proposed by the team’s owner, Charles Wong. Initially, Forest City had considered stripping an ice rink out of the Barclays Centre plan to save costs, but one could be installed for events like this preseason game and could possibly become a permanent feature.
Meanwhile, the ice is being laid in an even more unlikely place: the Bronx. According to Crain’s Ranger’s great Mark Messier has joined a group that hopes to bring a multi-rink complex to the Kingsbridge Armory, one of many possible bids to redevelop the massive building. If this sounds out of place for a majority minority community that favors baseball and basketball, the plan calls for a youth program aimed at getting kids off the streets and onto the ice.
“When I first heard ice hockey in the Bronx, there was a question mark in my mind,” one Bronx official told Crain’s. “But when they made their presentation, I ended up with ice hockey in the Bronx with an exclamation point.”