The Islanders at center ice of Barclays Center
The arena’s ice on Friday night was called “unplayable” and “bouncy,” and it has less to do with temperatures than it does the piping under the ice.
New York Islanders fans’ gripes about the Barclays Center have been plenty. There’s been complaints about the sight lines, the travel and the building design, in general, and it has left fans hoping for a return to Nassau Coliseum or for an all-new building for their Islanders to call home. The biggest objection to the arena, though, could be one that doesn’t really impact the fans.
Over the past few games, the center of attention for the Islanders hasn’t so much been the on-ice performance as it has been the ice conditions, which have been downright awful, according to the players.
Winger Cal Clutterbuck’s words rang out the loudest after the Islanders’ 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes. According to Newsday’s Arthur Staple, Clutterbuck called the surface “unplayable” on Friday night, and rearguard Johnny Boychuk added that pucks wouldn’t settle down, meaning players couldn’t do much more than “throw it on net.”
But complaints about the ice can be normal over the course of a season. Combine a string of unseasonable temperatures with a spectator-filled contest and there’s an almost perfect storm for bad, bouncy ice. Trouble is that it hasn’t been a one night issue.
Players were much less outspoken about the conditions following Sunday’s 6-3 win over the Minnesota Wild, but not exactly silent on the ice issue. Captain John Tavares told the New York Daily News’ Peter Botte that he didn’t want to talk about the ice but said it was “a little better” Sunday, while coach Jack Capuano said it was simply something both teams had to deal with.
“We don’t want any excuses,” Capuano said, according to Botte. “Whether the ice is good or bad, both teams have to play on it. I’m sure they’re trying to do the best they can here, and I’ll leave it at that.”
But the issue with the ice goes well beyond the temperature. According to Staple, the team has ice engineer and dehumidifiers that work to keep the rink in its best possible shape, but the biggest issue is literally an underlying one.
Staple reported that the Islanders are currently using plastic pipes below their ice surface instead of steel, and Chris Botta added that “all other NHL rinks have steel pipes.” Botta said that arena management knows of the issue, as do the Islanders, but it wasn’t fixed during the summer because it would have required a complete shutdown of the building.
When temperatures drop, the issue of warm weather impacting the playing surface will most likely fade away — or at least lessen, given that the sheet should stay much cooler in the winter — but as the season nears its culmination, the temperature could again be an issue and the team’s annoyance with the ice could again come to the fore.
Rumblings about the Islanders’ unhappiness with Barclays Center have been ongoing nearly since the day the puck was dropped to start the 2015-16 season, and they persist to this day. And if bad ice conditions continue without any fix in sight, you can almost guarantee the talk of the Islanders looking for a new home is going to continue.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.