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32. Because Even the Islanders Want to Live in Brooklyn

As the continued existence of the Utah (formerly New Orleans) Jazz reminds us, sports-franchise relocation is a cold and culturally imprecise business. But, with all due deference to the hockey fans of Long Island, the New York Islanders are primed to thrive in their new Brooklyn home.

Next October, when the team laces up its skates for its inaugural home game at Barclays Center, it will be embodying some of the borough’s ingrained signifiers. It’s a big-market outfit that, due to the existence of the more glamorous Rangers across the East River, can convey an almost artisanal integrity. It’s got a nostalgic patina thanks to its ’80s successes (the team’s 1980–83 championship years). The Islanders are even undergoing a gentrification of sorts—God bless the sight lines and ticket prices at Uniondale’s Nassau Coliseum, but Barclays is a massive upgrade.

And these guys are set up to be pretty good soon. Center and team captain John Tavares, sharklike and imaginative on the ice, is one of the NHL’s underappreciated superstars. Coach Jack Capuano’s young Isles are still likely a season or two away from skating out of the shadows of Denis Potvin, Mike Bossy, and Al Arbour, but there’s enough here to suggest that they’re capable, someday, of doing just that. In the meantime, their scruffy beards will look right at home at Sharlene’s.