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Islanders Lead a Return to Normal in New York Sports

  • June 18, 2021

At Barclays Center, the brief home of the Islanders during an ill-conceived foray into Brooklyn beginning in 2015, the Nets played the Milwaukee Bucks in a critical Game 5 of their N.B.A. playoff series in front of 16,000 exuberant fans.

But the Nets are a relatively new phenomenon in Brooklyn (they moved there from New Jersey in 2012), and their roots have not dug into the fabric of the community as firmly as the Islanders have in Long Island for nearly half a century.

Even with 3,000 more fans at the Barclays Center than were at the Coliseum, it would be hard to fathom them making more noise than Islander fans hoping to relive old glory under the four championship banners that dangle from a low ceiling that intensifies the tumult below.

Since the return of fans into stadiums in the New York area, nothing has quite matched the intensity of what is happening in Uniondale.

“Islander fans are a different breed,” said Billy Jaffe, an analyst covering the series for the NHL Network. Jaffe also served as an analyst on Islanders broadcasts for five years a decade ago. “It’s just a unique, intense fan base, and they have been waiting for this for a long time.”

Similar to the Pignataros, Jaffe was referring to the duality of that wait. In the immediate sense, it has been about returning to the building to shout, chant, sing and bang on the glass together.

In the larger sense, it is about the re-emergence of top-flight hockey amid signs that it is sustainable under Lou Lamoriello, the president and general manager, and Barry Trotz, the head coach, both of whom won Stanley Cups elsewhere.

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