If the worst team in the NHL sells out a game, does anyone outside their market notice? That's what I'm curious to see today from the national hockey media, which bashes the team -- many times deservedly -- for poor attendance, fan loyalty and so on.
Yes folks, despite being the worst team in the league by seven points, playing in the worst facility in the league, having their playoff hopes dashed in December and with their franchise player out for the season, the Islanders sold out an afternoon matinee on Long Island. It was their fourth sellout of the year and shows why Long Island is still a viable hockey market.
Yes, in light of all those obstacles -- not to mention the whole Kansas City thing -- the Islanders have managed to put some butts in the seats. Sure, you can say that four sellouts isn't anything to get excited about because, well, it's not. Go ahead and make the point that the 16,234 people that filled the Nassau Coliseum wouldn't be considered a sellout in almost every other NHL arena.
Nonetheless, it's hard to ignore a team that puts butts in the seats during a season as bad as this one. Oh, and please don't try to tell me that Kansas City could do this if they had just gone through 15 years of the Islanders' own special blend of futility.
Somehow, someway, during one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Islanders are managing to bring people to the Old Barn. And it wasn't just yesterday either. According to ESPN, they're averaging only 80 fans fewer per game than they were last year (not sure if that includes yesterday's number). Given the economy, that's not too bad. As compared to two seasons ago, the team is up about 1,000 fans per game. And that's with a far less talented on-ice product.
It's hard to tell if this is due to the Islanders creating an amazing family atmosphere, their marketing efforts or something in the water. Whatever it is, it should be crystal clear to anyone at the Coliseum yesterday that they are doing something right -- even if what's happening on the ice paints a different picture.
Sellout Shows Long Islanders Still in Love With Isles originally appeared on NHL FanHouse on Tue, 17 Feb 2009 11:51:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.