Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sorry! We're Closed!

Two weeks ago I was asked by one of the Islanders ‘ most avid fans what was going on with practices at Iceworks in Syosset. It seems he was very upset at being ushered out of the rink to stand in the lobby. It wasn’t a formal practice, but there were many players on the ice. This seemed strange to him as Iceworks practices have been open to the general public for years. I tried to get some information out of the PR department, but was only told “It wasn’t really a practice.” Well, it seems things are indeed changing.

It was perfectly understandable that game day practices at the Coliseum weren’t open to the public, only to the media. But many of the most avid fans really enjoyed being able to spend some time in Syosset watching their favorite team on their off days running drills, scrimmaging and just generally being schooled.

Sadly, today another avid fan received a letter sent to season ticket holders explaining that they were changing their fan-friendly ways. The letter stated the following:
“In an effort to create a more focused training environment for the team, all 2009-2010 Islanders practices will be closed to the general public. However, as we seek to offer our season ticket holders greater team access, we will host season ticket holder-only practices on the following dates:”

It goes on to list only five dates, one in each October, November and December and two in February. However, passes obtained from the sales reps are needed for access.

This isn’t going to sit well with the fan base at large. If the sales department is using this as a tactic to attract more season ticket holders, I think it will fail dismally. All of a sudden it’s a “privilege” to go to Iceworks and freeze your butt off watching drills. The only practice that is expected to be open to ALL fans is slated for January 17, ’10, in conjunction with the Lighthouse youth hockey tournament.

Let the conspiracy theories begin. Okay. In this age of TMI, could this be a way of keeping the progress of both highly anticipated prospect John Tavares and highly doubtful recovering Rick DiPietro from having their every single move photographed, Tweeted and Facebooked? Is it necessary to cloister young JT from the rabid Long Island hockey fans?

Or is it just that the Islanders coaching staff is trying to buckle down a little and be less distracted? Remember, the first interview John Tavares gave in Mini Camp in July; he talked about focusing solely on hockey. No social media for him, just work, work, work. You’ll also notice that many of the young Islanders who did have Facebook accounts have pulled them down.

Could this be a mandate as they go through the rebuilding process? Are the Islanders taking a page from Lou Lamoriello’s pro book? The Devil’s closed practices as soon as their new rink was built. (I could go so many places with that one, but I’ll restrain myself.) Our cross-town rivals’ practices are also NOT open to the public. But from what I hear on Twitter, the Caps, the Bruins, the Preds and the Sabres ALL have open practices. Even the Stanley Cup winning Penguins have a schedule on their website indicating where MOST of their practices are open to the public.

For a fan base that stood 10,000 strong on a Friday night in June cheering for John Tavares, this new closed door policy is going to be met with great disappointment, and maybe a few other less-than-pleasant emotions.So far, our new season is one of sweeping changes. I’m not sure how many of them are changes for the better.

**In an effort to be fair, I received this note from an experienced hockey coach and really nice guy:
Dee, if you're talking about closed practices, don't be so surprised -- or not any more surprised than if your favorite actor or your favorite band doesn't invite you to their rehearsal. People make mistakes in those venues, and people also get their asses chewed (or at least they can if there aren't outsiders present). And, like your favorite actor or band, the pro hockey player gets paid to perform for you at special times, not all the time. Okay, sorry to talk to you like an old coach, Dee -- DC

1 comment:

Christian A. said...

Its not really going to affect the fan base at large. Not many fans show up to these practices, since many are during the week during work and school. Only during weekends or holiday breaks is it crowded. I loved them but its not a major loss, to me atleast