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: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 16, 2011 3:36 am
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: August 6, 2011 11:09 am

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

Every Canadian has a hard on for the USA?

This is an example of that half a brain you have working ... well, like someone with half a brain.  Read the message again; I was directing it to you and a small number of obnoxious Canadians.  You are more than merely ignorant, perhaps you're pathological.

As to the Canadian economy: look at my message again, half-brain.  I addressed the strength of the loony and the economy.  You cannot read anything without taking it as an insult to Canada and that the USA is to blame.  Virtually all the people in Canada must take you for a fringe nut job; I take you as a pest with a h@ard-on.

Since: Aug 19, 2006
Posted on: August 6, 2011 12:54 am

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

 Every Canadian has a hard on for the USA? Gimme a break, that is just blatantly wrong and perhaps wishful thinking. Our economy is doing just fine, thanks, yours hmmm not so much. Americas empire is drawing to a close, like it or not. Typical ignorant misguided American "patriotism". 

 As for another team in S.Ontario, of couse they could support another team. The only person I've read on the CBS boards that denies that fact is Skyhawk. The problem isn't paying off the surrounding teams, it's the fact that the NHL will not let it happen. The Leafs will make sure it never happens, read a little about Harold Ballard and his relentless blocking of a Hamilton NHL team for decades. That's why Hamilton won't get a team, it's not an issue of buy-out dollars IMO. 

Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: August 5, 2011 9:05 am

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

I'm sure Americans wouldn't take to kindly to crossing the border to support a Canadian team, am I wrong?

I have gladly crossed the border to attend Jays games dozens of times.  I am not the only American doing that; in fact we do so* because we're Jays fans.  The border is like another toll booth, a necessary nuisance.  Otherwise, I do not think political borders matter that much for fan allegiance. Yeah, you're wrong.  I would like to hear from a Canadian that does not have a h@rd-on for the USA, (you are one of a small number, yet obnoxiously vocal contingent, in what is for the most part a great country).

(* Happily, I now live in Colorado and pull for the Rockies too, but I remain a die-hard Jays fan.)

Your logic for why a team should be put in Hamilton is fan-based. I assert that someone who has enough money to buy a team is likely to be a successful businessperson.  They are likely to base their decision on an opportunity-cost business-basis.  This puts S. Ontario at a significant competitive disadvantage.  It does.

Could Hamilton, Windsor, London, or you-name-the-city get a team?  Of course, but the owner would have to pay extra.  That RIM-job guy tried to strong arm the NHL and that does not sit well with successful business people.  What amazes me is that there are two teams in metro-Los Angeles, (LA!), and three teams in metro-NY, yet only one in Toronto.  With the strength of the loony and the overall Canadian economy, someone there should just say screw it, a competitive team here could do better than the Leafs and it's worth the costs.  Or you could have some guy like Buffalo now has, (one of - if not - the richest owners in the NHL), who is foremost a huge fan that says this will be great for my bank account, and I will have the time of my life.  That person will be treated like a deity, as Pegula is now.  They would have to take a lesson from Basille (spelling?, I'll stick with "RIM-job guy") on how not to go about it.

Since: Aug 19, 2006
Posted on: August 4, 2011 11:52 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

 Hamilton is the most NHL ready city, and it has been for decades. Yes, they'll have to pay the Leafs, and probably the Sabres, but it doesn't change the fact that the area is not being utilized as it could be. The Leafs are sold out for years, regardless of the pathetic product they put on the ice, so people HAVE to go to Buffalo if they want to watch an NHL game live. I just don't think it's right that a fan should have to cross the border to attend a game, it's nice to spend your money on a Canadian team IMO. I'm sure Americans wouldn't take to kindly to crossing the border to support a Canadian team, am I wrong? 

Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: August 4, 2011 8:39 am

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

Hamilton is can't miss... Anyone with half a brain knows that.

I guess this means you have half a brain.  Did the Sabres whine when they paid Toronto?  Will Toronto get paid for a new team in their market?  (Both the NYI and NJ paid for their rights to be in the NY market.)  It's business.  That's the way it's been, and that's the way it's going to be.  The Sabres have no trouble selling their tickets.  I do not think there is an law to prevent them from selling tickets to someone from Canada.  Your comments, therefore, need to be directed to Canadians that choose to do that.

Since an owner will have to pay for the territorial rights, their cost of ownership just went up.  It's an opportunity-cost matter, and since there are great opportunities without that cost, Hamilton is not going to get a team.  The Sabres are not your problem.  Get over it you snot-nosed sacks of pestilence.  Canadians whining because Canadians want to buy tickets to a hockey game!  Get over it you snot-nosed sacks of pestilence.

Since: Aug 19, 2006
Posted on: August 4, 2011 1:27 am

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

 Hamilton is can't miss... Anyone with half a brain knows that. Too bad the Leafs are pulling the strings in the NHL. The Sabres need to quit whining and get some fans from their own country. Don't BS me about how close they are to other teams either. The NHL has the NYI, Rangers and New Jersey Devils playing in an area that is much less hockey fanatic than S.Ontario. Pay the Leafs their dough and Buffalo can pound dirt.

Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: August 3, 2011 7:44 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

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. 

I think that word you placed extra emphasis on is one of the main reasons FOR adding Hartford to the discussion.  It's a huge hockey market.  Without an arena I think Hartford is out in the cold, and it would be foolish to build one on spec.  But, Hartford cannot be dismissed because it is a strong hockey market ready for the NHL to return someday.

Don't look at all past franchise failures as an indication that a city won't or cannot support a team.  Denver lost the Rockies, and the Avs have done o.k.  Winnipeg will succeed in the NHL, (partly because the Canadian economy and dollar are so much stronger than they were in 1996).  Are Cleveland or Baltimore bad football towns?  Sometimes teams move because of poor ownership choices; N.O. is going to lose the Hornets, but their owner was a dolt.

Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: August 3, 2011 5:29 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

Don't the Blackhawks have territorial rights over Milwaukee?

I am certain that the Hawks draw fans from Wisconsin.  I have been known to be wrong, but I believe the territorial range is a circle 75 miles from the arena.  This would place Milwaukee outside Chicago's territory.  (I am no authority on the geography for IL & WI, but I think the cities are about 90 miles apart.)  I am certain that Chicago & Wisconsin could easily support two teams.

I agree with the other message that passion for a sport does not always translate into a professional team's fan support.  But, as others have noted, the NYI are not abysmal - they are far from being an expansion team. The Avs won the SC a year or two after moving from Quebec, and the Nords had been pretty bad,  They were poised, however, for success after the Lindros trade.  The Islanders are not stacked with that much promise, but they have some very good players hitting their stride.

I almost threw Portland onto my list.  (That is a phenominal town, BTW; go there if you have a chance.)  They might be a better location than Seattle.  I'll bet that the Rose Garden is NHL-ready.

Since: Mar 24, 2010
Posted on: August 3, 2011 5:04 pm

Islanders arena vote fails: What now?

I agree that Milwaukee would be an interesting idea given that hockey is a releigion in Wisconsin. However, the league must beware of places where college sports reign over the pros. The people of Wis. May love their hockey, but would they support a potentially bad NHL team at NHL prices ?

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