Open Mike Night - 5/4/09
“If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t do it.” The words of a disgruntled owner experiencing buyer’s remorse. Regardless of whether or not New York Islanders owner Charles Wang kept the receipt, he’s unable to return this bordering-on-albatross of a franchise for a refund – not even store credit.
26-47-9. The wins-losses-overtime losses record of a team that is currently on the clock at this June’s NHL Entry Draft. Games aren’t the only thing being lost on the Island though. $25 to $35 million in losses have been reported…just this season. Wang, who bought the Islanders in June of 2000, has poured a reported $208.8 million into the franchise to keep it afloat.
The Islanders have a major decision to make. The owner of the Islanders does too. A couple of decisions that may dictate the future of the franchise, both on the ice and off. Will London Knights (OHL) star John Tavares have the “Sidney Crosby effect” on the suffering franchise? Will MODO Ornskoldsvik (SEL) standout Victor Hedman put fannies in the seats? No one can be sure. Even more importantly though, these fans need to find out where they will be seated first.
The Isles desperately need a new arena. The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum opened back in 1972 and is the third-oldest NHL rink. With 37 years elapsed since its unveiling, the building is bordering on the Nassau Mausoleum now more than ever. According to most, political red tape is preventing a glorious new plan from taking fruition. Tabbed as the “Lighthouse Project,” it is virtually a city within a city. Initial plans call for not only a new arena for the Isles, but also a couple hotels, more than two-thousand new residences, a sports complex, a minor league baseball park, a convention center, office buildings and more. And Charles Wang can take it all home for four easy payments of one billion dollars.
The politicians in the Town of Hempstead have put the kibosh on this plan up to this juncture. Wang’s deadline for them is October, just before local elections take place. While Wang and a legion of Islanders faithful take to the role of victim, a recent interview by IslandersIndependent claimed that Wang was on the offensive, arrogant and out of control. The unnamed interviewee cites that Wang is a “bully…he is nothing but a bully!” The source goes on to say that Wang doesn’t care about the Islanders; he only cares about the land development deal.
Under the Isles current agreement, they do not see revenues from concessions or parking. That is something that the Lighthouse Project would provide (not exactly the top bullet point on a project this size), not to mention the option that is on the table to move the team to nearby (relative to Kansas City, Winnipeg or Las Vegas) Queens which would keep the Islanders lucrative cable television deal intact (a $400 million deal that runs through 2031).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman backs the Lighthouse Project. Of course, he doesn’t need any more teams to flounder or, worse, start shuffling about like some NBA franchises. He wants to keep the Islanders on Long Island but recognizes that the Isles cannot remain in the Nassau Coliseum any longer than they have to. He also peddles the dodgy calling card of “we’ll explore our options.” The same ambiguous phrase that Wang has thrown about in the event that he doesn’t get his way in regards to this major undertaking.
The Islanders are on the clock.