Blog Entry

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

Posted on: August 2, 2011 12:11 am

By Brian Stubits

'Tis a sad, sad day not only on Long Island, but in the NHL. With the vote on a new arena for the Islanders being shot down by the people of Nassau County, it seems to be a lock that the team will be looking for greener pastures after 2015 when the lease with Nassau Coliseum runs out.

"I have to tell you I'm disappointed and to put it bluntly, I'm heartbroken," owner Charles Wang said after the votes came in.

We aren't here to rub salt in the wound for the Islanders fans. Losing a franchise is in no way a fun experience and no reason to delight. It can feel like losing a family pet to the die-hard fans. We aren't at that stage yet, and it's still very possible the Isles won't venture too far. The possibilities of playing somewhere else on Long Island certainly exist, let alone staying in Nassau County. But it's also a possibility they desert the Island.

If the team were to move, the first question that would have to be answered is who, exactly, would own the team? Once upon a time, Wang admitted regret to buying the franchise, saying he wouldn't do it again. This could be his chance to sell if he so chooses.

At this point, though, Wang is staying mum about the future of the team, instead saying he wants to focus on next season. That doesn't do much to calm the worries of fearful fans.

Whether he sells or not, though, the team almost certainly won't be playing in Nassau Coliseum after 2015. That much Wang has made pretty clear. But who knows? At this point, there's a long way to go. His tough-line stance certainly could have been a ploy to increase the sense of urgency on the matter. I doubt it, but then again I doubt that the Islanders are content to sit around for four more years, listening to relocation chatter, either.

If they do move -- still a pretty big if -- here's a look at the potential homes.

Brooklyn: Yes, the team might not actually leave the tri-state area. Early this year, it was reported that Nelson Peltz had interest in buying the team and moving it to Brooklyn, to share the not-yet open arena that will serve as the new home of the NBA's Nets. Whether or not Wang sells the team to Peltz (how about Nets owner and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov?) or keeps it for himself, the borough could be a potential landing spot that keeps everything mostly in tact. It becomes a little bit further of a commute for the majority of the fan base that lives on Long Island, but it beats seeing the team move more than an hour away. Aside from a passing vote tonight or another county on Long Island stepping up to build an arena, this would be the next best solution.

Quebec City: Ever since losing the Nordiques to Colorado in 1996, the fans in Quebec have been dying to see the NHL return, much the same as the fans in Winnipeg. Just check out the wonderful simplicity of Of the out-of-state options, Quebec seems to be in the best shape considering it has a potential owner in Pierre Karl Peladeau, the chairman of media giant Quebecor. The kicker is that, while Quebec City doesn't have an arena right now to hot a team, it plans to by2015, which would work perfectly with a potential Islanders move.

Kansas City: Sure, there is an arena available (the still new Sprint Center doesn't have a primary tenant), but who would own the team if Wang looks to sell? That's the golden question. The fear is growing in Kansas City that it built a new arena on the belief it could land either an NHL or NBA franchise but won't get either. It could soon become a reality.

Houston: There isn't tremendous appeal to Houston other than it being a massive market. But it's a city that continues to get mentioned on the back end of the lists for relocation, mainly because of the market size and that it has an arena. But the hurdles (non-traditional hockey market, no prospective owner) are tough to clear under the assumption that the team would be sold.

Seattle: It doesn't have a clear owner (although a group expressed interest to the league) and it doesn't have a suitable arena. After watching the NBA's SuperSonics fly the coop because of a refusal to publicly build an arena, you wouldn't think there would enough support before a team is even in town to build a new arena. At this moment in time, a very long shot.

Milwaukee: I'll just continue to ask why this city never gets more consideration. It's a good state for hockey and a team could share the Bradley Center with the NBA's Bucks. The Kohl family could probably afford it no problem.

Hamilton: We have to throw it on the list because, quite frankly, the number of markets is drying up fast for the NHL to move in to. You have to wonder if Gary Bettman and the Maple Leafs would be OK with another team in southern Ontario when faced with a possible alternative of contraction. No commissioner wants to have that on their resume. But we know there is an owner who would want it (Jim Balsillie) and who has shown a willingness to build a new arena.

Long Island: Pick the county, any county. The leg work would have to begin now, but it would in the end be great to see the team stay (mostly) put.

Photo: Getty Images

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Since: Aug 3, 2011
Posted on: August 3, 2011 3:58 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

Milwaukee would be a great place for an NHL team. The Bradley Center (home of the Bucks) was built in an attempt to get an NHL team in the early 90's. It is a more of a hockey arena than basketball. Lot's of Hockey fans.

Since: May 16, 2011
Posted on: August 3, 2011 3:47 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

Don't the Blackhawks have territorial rights over Milwaukee? I know nothing about the city so I can't say for certain. I would throw Portland out there as well. They have a very well supported Major Junior team and the Rose Garden which hosts hockey games already.

Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: August 3, 2011 3:33 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

topofstack, thank you on two counts.

And for the record, there isn't a casino attached to or next to the Sprint Center.  City Hall is down the street so maybe thats what you were thinking of. 

First, thanks for the correction.  I was going strictly on memory from when the Penguins or Preds were supposed to be on their way to KC.  Maybe there was talk of a casino.  I am thinking about the WNBA CT Sun where the team plays at a casino and it helps them draw fans.  That makes a non-traditional or smaller market more viable.
Second, I appreciate the humor about City Hall.

If there is no magnet other than hockey to draw fans to KC then you can move them to the improbable list of cities for NHL relocation.  There's little to suggest that a team in KC would be any more viable than the Scouts were.

My list of most attractive cities for possible NHL teams is: 1) Quebec, 2) Milwaukee.  I base this on business factors, which I believe will be the deciding factor.
Other cities that could get a team are: Hartford, KC, Houston, and Seattle.  I doubt that anyone should expect the NHL in any of these any time in the near future.
If politics are permitted to determine where the Islanders could move, then I think Brooklyn might be the best bet.  NY is a pretty serious hockey town and they love the Rangers, but Brooklyn is closer to Wall Street than MSG.  They would have no problem getting fans & corporate suites sold.
I would love to see the NHL return to Ontario, (sorry Leafs fans), but I think the added cost of paying Buffalo, Toronto, and/or Detroit for territorial rights makes relocation there unlikely.

Since: Oct 18, 2007
Posted on: August 3, 2011 3:28 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

Since: Jun 5, 2008
Posted on: August 3, 2011 12:56 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

How'd that work out last time they were there?  Not very good.   I doubt very much the NHL is interested in moving back into a market that is sandwiched between two HUGE markets in NYC and Boston. 

Since: Apr 6, 2007
Posted on: August 3, 2011 9:30 am

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?


OK.  There really isn't much of a hockey culture here.  The Missouri Mavericks (CHL) get pretty good attendence at the IEC (5,800 seats), only 15 minutes from downtown.  Thats about it.  Hockey would bring a buzz, but I don't know if it could fill the Sprint Center.  And for the record, there isn't a casino attached to or next to the Sprint Center.  City Hall is down the street so maybe thats what you were thinking of. 

Since: May 13, 2011
Posted on: August 3, 2011 12:18 am

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

its funny that wang is shocked because islander fans were shocked when his mad dog gm milbury traded chara and the number 2 pick in the draft for that stiff yashin

Since: Dec 1, 2010
Posted on: August 2, 2011 11:09 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

This team hasn't recovered since they wore those hideous LI Fisherman jerseys in the mid 90's following their last memorable run in 1993.

Since: Dec 3, 2006
Posted on: August 2, 2011 10:41 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

No way should they leave long island.  That being said however, you can not compete w/o a new arena.  Hell, it doesn't matter to the owners if it seats a single regular paying fan, the fact is all the money is in lux boxes.   Now who has the money-as a city-to buy those seats?  Honeastly, I hate to say it but from a buss point of view they must move west.  KC has an arean ready to go.  They will sell out for a few years a probably lose th eteam.  Millwak?  I do not know much about their city-do they have an arean ready?  Let us not forget the owners are buss men.  They want money NOW.  It is sad that the voters in NY do not realixze the jobs a new arena creates.  Not to mention, the millions of dolloars in concernts, drafts, all star games, etc. that a new arena brings in.  Still, they are taxed to death so I get it.  If I am the owner, I get what I could, sell the team, let the new smell wear off and let the new owners in KC worry about it at that point.  Has it been that long since Trots, Bossy, Snith, etc brough tthose long island folks pride and memories.  Good lick Isles, see you in the mid-west where a new arena awaits. 

Since: Dec 1, 2010
Posted on: August 2, 2011 9:59 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

Seems Quebec is a destination that would welcome this team if fans continue to not show up in droves and keep the team profitable. I hate this team for what they did to my Flyers in 1980 when I was a kid. However, it would be very sad to see a team that had a very productive 15 year stretch from the early 80's Cups through the mid 90's leave LI. I hope they can find a way to make it work. They are tradition to me having grown up watching their 4 cups. I'm sure Old Geezers will say they are like the Jets. Johnny Come Lately's who tried to steal the Rangers and Giants thunder in their respective sports.

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