The New York Islanders will cart plenty of tradition along with them as they make their move from the Nassau Coliseum to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for the 2015-16 season. The familiar uniforms will be there. So will the banners honoring the team’s retired legends and its four Stanley Cups.
Public address announcer Roger Luce will continue to be the voice of the Islanders. Paul Cartier, who first played the organ for the Islanders in 1979 will continue to lead the crowd in the “Let’s Go Islanders” chant on the Lowrey organ at all home games. They’re even setting up a special spot in Section 229 for the die-hards in the Blue and Orange Army.
These are “the customs and unique elements have been instrumental in shaping the identity of the franchise,” according to Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark.
But one longstanding tradition will be very noticeable by its absence: the Islanders Ice Girls.
In their place will be a co-ed ice crew charged with “helping create the best ice possible as mandated by the NHL,” according to Barry Baum, chief communications officer for Barclays Center.
The team’s decision to scrap the Ice Girls is not insignificant. Back in 2001, the Isles were the first NHL club to create a cheerleader-style Ice Girls squad that, along with performing various promotional duties, was charged with shoveling loose snow off the ice at stoppages. Their apparent popularity inspired copycat troupes around the league, along with protests from some who felt their sometimes provocative attire was both unnecessary and demeaning to female fans. That chorus of voices has grown louder in recent years, rising to a crescendo when the San Jose Sharks announced plans to add their own Ice Girls last summer.
Baum, however, said the Islanders’ decision was not motivated by those voices of dissent.
“We decided to go in a different direction,” Baum told SI.com. “We held a number of meetings with our fans on Long Island to ensure we’d bring the best traditions to Brooklyn and we think they’ll be very happy with the result.”
The Isles aren’t the first team to make this call. The Flyers eliminated their Ice Girls squad ahead of last season, but reversed their position after a male ice crew was lustily booed at their preseason opener.
It’s unlikely the Isles will face similar pressures when they debut at Barclays given all the other visual distractions a new building will provide. But if they hold the line, they could lead the way a second time. They ushered in the Ice Girls era. They might just usher it out.
GALLERY: Farewell to the Islanders Ice Girls