Islanders to make early return to Long Island

The New York Islanders NHL ice hockey team will play all of its home games at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum during the 2020-21 campaign ahead of its move to a new arena at Belmont Park the following season.

The Islanders broke ground on the $1.3bn (£1.02bn/€1.17bn) Belmont Park redevelopment project, which will be anchored by a new 19,000-seat arena, in September. While work is carried out on the new arena, the team is splitting home games between Barclays Center, where it has played since 2015, and the Coliseum, its previous home of over 30 years.

In 2015, the team began playing home games exclusively at Barclays Center, which is also home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. The Islanders then reached a deal to play a number of fixtures at the Coliseum starting from the 2018-19 season.

Having spent so long at Coliseum, Long Island is viewed as the Islanders’ natural home and this season the team will play a total of 28 regular-season games at the venue, with the rest played at Barclays Center.

The team will now spend the full 2020-21 season at the Coliseum, returning to Long Island a year ahead of schedule. The Islanders will also play any home play-off games this season and next season at the Coliseum.

The move has been made possible after $6m in state-funded upgrades brought the Coliseum up to minimum NHL standards. Improvements include renovating team locker rooms, new cabling infrastructure and modern broadcast media equipment, additional dehumidification measures, ice-plant redundancy systems and upgrading the building’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (pictured) said: “The Islanders have always been Long Island’s team, and I’m proud to announce this iconic sports franchise will be coming home for good – one year ahead of schedule. This long-awaited homecoming will bring the Islanders back to their passionate fan base while generating energy and excitement from Long Islanders for the new Belmont Park Arena opening next year.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman added: “As the National Hockey League looks forward to the Islanders’ move to Belmont Park Arena for the 2021-22 NHL season, thanks to the state’s investment and upgrades to the facility and the commitment of Islanders ownership, we have now determined that the best option during this period of transition is for the club to play all of its regular-season home games next season and any home Stanley Cup Playoff games this and next season at Nassau Coliseum at NYCB Live.

“We thank Barclays Center for playing host to the Islanders over the past five years and thank Islanders fans for their patience and loyalty while the League and the club work together with the State of New York to build the new home this proud franchise needs and deserves.”

Belmont Park is on track for completion in time for the 2021-22 NHL season. The project is expected to create 10,000 construction jobs and support 3,200 full-time jobs upon completion.

Image: New York Islanders