Movin’ Out: Evaluating Islanders’ Fandom in Brooklyn

By Scott Sherman

The big news out of the National Hockey League this afternoon was not an end to the ongoing lockout, but instead surrounded the surprising announcement that the New York Islanders would move to Brooklyn in 2015.

Future Charles Wang-Mikhail Prokhorov interactions notwithstanding, among the most interesting parts of the move is that the Isles will now be going head-to-head with Manhattan’s Rangers for the hearts of New York City’s hockey fans.

It turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly, that doing so will be no easy task. Using Facebook data, we calculated the proportionate number of fans the Islanders have in Brooklyn—based on the number of “likes” for each team—and compared it to the number of Rangers fans.

Of course, this method is far from scientific, and certainly the Devils and other squads will have their share of fans in the city. But some interesting facts did nonetheless emerge from the numbers:

  • Of the 47,560 Brooklyn residents who “like” one of New York City’s two hockey teams on Facebook, only 11.4% like the Islanders, while 88.6% like the Rangers.
  • Among Brooklyn neighborhoods, Flatbush has the highest proportion of Islanders fans compared to Rangers fans (17%). Southwest Brooklyn (7.2%) has the lowest.
  • Northwest Brooklyn, where the Barclays Center—the team’s future home—is located, contains 90.7% Rangers fans, and just 9.3% Isles fans.

None of these numbers should be too surprising, as just like the Mets, Nets, and—to a lesser extent—the Jets, the Islanders possess a far smaller number of fans than their New York rivals (not including the Bills and Sabres).  That seems to be true all over the state; even Uniondale, where Nassau Coliseum is located, features only 37.1% Islanders fans compared to Rangers fans.

Things are somewhat better for Brooklyn’s new basketball squad. In Northwest Brooklyn, home of the Barclays Center, 27% of Facebook users who liked a NYC basketball team supported the Nets—still a strong minority, but that one that represents substantially more support than the Islanders have in the area.

Either way, it appears both Prokhorov and Wang have their work cut out of them if they are going to draw fans away from James Dolan’s squads in the Big Apple.

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  • Now that the announcement about the move to Brooklyn has taken some time to reach fans, it may be interesting to re-run this analysis before the move actually takes place. Maybe simply knowing that a team will become local can influence Brooklynites to “like” the Islanders.

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