BROOKLYN, NY -- To the hopes of some and to the chagrin of others, the Islanders began their journey westward from Nassau County to Brooklyn with an exhibition contest against the Devils at Barclays Center Saturday.
With a chill in the air and a stiff September breeze that foreshadowed the beginning of the hockey season, Islanders, Devils and even Rangers fans from far and wide made the trip to Atlantic Avenue to satisfy their curiosity and witness the first NHL game to be played in the Borough of Brooklyn.
For lifelong Islanders fan Keith Mamalone, it was an awkward experience to see his favorite team play inside the borders of New York City instead of taking the ice at Nassau Coliseum.
“It's different,” the North Bellmore resident said before the start of the game. “Growing up, I'd always go to the Coliseum. It's going to be a change … it's a new look with a team on the rise, so hopefully with the new [arena], a lot of good things happen to them.”
Most of the curious Islanders fans made their way to Barclays Center via the Long Island Railroad. Those asked said that the trips into Brooklyn ranged from as short as 20 minutes to as long as an hour. But for Isles fan and Levittown resident Jesse Steinman, it was worth the trip to see his favorite team in their future home. He said the length of the ride won't be a deterrent when the Islanders make their move.
“The travel out here is actually fun,” he said. “I would come out here a lot, just because it's the Islanders. I'd be out here at least 15 games out of the season.”
Islanders fan Charlie McAnularn, a Brooklyn resident and season-ticket holder, believes that the decision to come to Brooklyn can only raise the profile of the team and borough.
“I think Brooklyn is up and coming,” he said. “Everybody's coming here; the residents, the businesses, just a nice area. It's going to be like Manhattan in a couple of years. It's going to be great, we'll be celebrating a Stanley Cup on 5th Avenue, a ticket-tape parade!”
Devils fan and Freeport, New York native Kevin Cari thinks that the potential move is something all local fans can look forward to with excitement. A team in Brooklyn means a closer proximity between the tri-state area rivals and an increased interest level among casual fans.
“[The move] brings more competition to the area,” he said. “The Islanders can maybe get some free agents and be more competitive, make the playoffs year after year. “
[WATCH: DeBoer Discusses Brooklyn Win vs. Isles]
Even Rangers fans couldn't keep away from the matchup between two of the Blueshirts' fiercest rivals, although they were serenaded with some good-natured ribbing while walking the concourses. Wearing a Rangers cap and a rather unflattering t-shirt toward the Devils, David Gasbarob was enthusiastic about the Islanders' Brooklyn experiment ... for selfish reasons.
“I'm definitely going to every Rangers game [at Barclays Center],” the Bensonhurst native said. “Imagine all the Rangers fans that are going to come down here! It's great for Brooklyn and for me. I always thought about having a hockey team in my city.”
While fans of other teams were dispersed throughout the arena, the most dominant colors in the stands were blue, white and orange. A crowd of 14,689 made their voices heard throughout the night, with an electric buzz in the building coming to a crescendo at the the start of the game. Every Islander check was punctuated with a thunderous roar and a raucous “Nabby” chant broke out late in the first period when Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov denied Michael Ryder with a stacked pad stop.
"[In] preseason, you don't see a crowd like that," New York head coach Jack Capuano said in his postgame press conference. "The music, the atmosphere. When the guys came on the ice, you could tell. It had that feel, just like when we ended off at the Coliseum last year against Pittsburgh."
But it would be the road team that would end up spoiling the carnival-like ambiance of the occassion. Jacob Josefson potted the first goal in Barclays Center for New Jersey at 10:12 of the first period, with assists from Anton Volchenkov and Damian Brunner. Patrik Elias would make it 2-0 at 4:49 in the second after a pretty feed from Josefson and Brunner. Steve Bernier would finish off the scoring with a power-play goal at 2:31 in the third period.
[WATCH: Schneider, Merrill & Zubrus' postgame reaction]
Despite the result, the Islanders enjoyed their Brooklyn experience from training camp through Saturday's game. Still, there was a tinge of disappointment after losing the first contest in the new building, even if it was a preseason one.
"The atmosphere was good, it probably would have been great if we gave them something to cheer about,” winger Matt Moulson said after the game. “In warmups and coming out in the first period, we had our fans here behind us. It's a great building to play in and watch a game in.”
For John Tavares, Saturday's game against the Devils in Brooklyn provided an alluring glimpse of what lies ahead for the Islanders.
“We certainly hope to take something from it,” the new team captain said. “Obviously [the move] is a few years away. Hopefully, the fans and everyone that's a part of it can take something from [Saturday] and being part of this experience. We move on and get back to where we need to get to because obviously [Saturday] wasn't very good.”