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Taub: Yormark Dropped The Ball with Isles

First reported last night by Bloomberg, Brett Yormark, the CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, is stepping down from his position as the franchise transitions to a new owner, Joe Tsai.

Yormark became the head of the Nets and Barclays back in 2005 and was at the forefront of the team’s move from New Jersey to Brooklyn. He was also the pitchman for when the other tenant that plays at Barclays, the New York Islanders, were leaving Long Island for Brooklyn.

From the moment Yormark’s name first became known to Islander fans, there was skepticism that he was not sincere in his approach.

“To me, he had the attitude that he never wanted the team playing at Barclays from the start,” said Andrew Taub, an Isles season-ticket holder for 42 years. Taub spoke with Yormark a few times before the team’s move in 2015. “All the promises he made — better security, better atmosphere and extra train service to games — never happened.”

Yormark continued to dig himself an even deeper hole when he tried to change the identity of the organization overnight. We’re talking about those awful black-and-white duds the Islanders were forced to wear when they first moved to Barclays and for the following three seasons. Those threads, meant to embrace Brooklyn, never sat well with a fan base that valued the iconic blue and orange unis the franchise has sported since its inception. Granted, Yormark does deserve some credit for trying to shake up the Isles identity and make them more attractive to a new market, but it showed that there was a major disconnect between him and the fans.

Before the Isles even played a regular-season game in Brooklyn, Yormark also made a crucial mistake trying to change the goal horn.

Debuting the new sound during a preseason game in September 2015, the change was met by an absorbent amount of criticism. So much so, Yormark had to go on the radio the next day and immediately switch back to the old horn. Fans were happy to see the old horn return but it was another example of Yormark trying to do too much instead of leaving well enough alone.

Things did seem to quiet down as the Islanders adjusted to their new digs, but it never felt like the building truly welcomed them. Sure, the retired player banners were hung and two banners showing off all the conference and division titles sat in the upper corner of the rafters, but the off-center scoreboard, minimal Isles representation around the arena and overall game presentation, all were major turn-offs. To make things worse, the embarrassing measures that Yormark went to justify the obstructed seats — including some cockamamie app to give you a view of the game if you were in one of those seats — did him no favors. “Watch the game on your phone,” he said. That’s not how going to a hockey game works.

Then it February 2018, Yormark truly solidified himself as an enemy to Islander fans.

In an interview with Fox 5 NY, he made the inexplicable comment that the Isles were a “rent-a-team”.  After that quote was published, backlash rained down on Yormark. It also made fans want the team out of Brooklyn as soon as possible. Now while the team ownership — Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin — had just won the rights to build a brand new arena at Belmont Park two months earlier, but Yormark’s comments basically ended any good-will relationship that he had with the team, if there was any to begin with.

With Yormark officially leaving, Isles fans can claim a small victory. The team will still have to play at Barclays for the time being before leaving for Belmont in two years, but the stench and awful impression Yormark left on the organization is finally gone.

As a businessman, you would think Yormark would have gone to better lengths to understand the Islanders and the brand they already established for over four decades. He didn’t and it only made for another dark period for a franchise and fans that seen too many.

Yormark could have done good things for the Islanders. But he missed the mark, plain and simple.

Follow me on Twitter @RTaub_

About Rob Taub

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