Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New York Islanders: No Seats Till Brooklyn

Owner Charles Wang Checks Long Island Into The Boards.
Team Moving To Brooklyn For 2015 Season.

After months of speculation, it's official, the Islanders are coming to Brooklyn.  The announcement was made this Wednesday afternoon.  After years of wrangling with Nassau County over a new arena, club owner Charles Wang is pulling the team from Uniondale when his lease with the Nassau Coliseum expires.  He will be relocating them to Barclays Center, where Mr. Wang just signed a twenty five year lease to play beginning with the 2015 season.

Let me first say, the Islanders belong in Uniondale playing for the fans of Long Island.  Period!  I'd much rather see them stay there, than  The failure of Nassau County to reach an agreement with Charles Wang on his Lighthouse Project, or at a minimum, a new arena is a shortsighted mistake repeated throughout the country.  The matter did go to a vote, and was defeated.  I for one am not telling Long Islanders how to spend their tax dollars.  They pay enough as it is.  But how many towns and cities wound up building an arena after their teams split town, in an effort to entice a new one into returning?  Atlanta, Minnesota, Winnipeg, Colorado, Quebec, for whatever their failures, are available examples.

Furthermore, whether directly or indirectly, the dilapidated state of the Coliseum falls squarely on the county.  And it should not go under spoken that Charles Wang was not looking for public funding throughout the process.  Several of his proposals (not all) would have been privately financed.  It was the county which made the final proposal for a new arena plus a new minor league baseball park.  That's what was put to a vote, and that's the project that ultimately got voted down.  In order to move forward as an organization, the owner needed arena certainty.  So to Brooklyn they will come.

As part of his interview Wednesday on local radio 98.7ESPN, Charles Wang said new locker rooms would have to be built, and that on one far end of the arena, there are obstructed seats issues.  Reconfigured, Barclays holds 14,500 for hockey.  Mr. Wang said their are preliminary plans for adding as many as 1,000 more seats for hockey.  In either case, even the Commissioner would admit capacity at Barclays is a bit below league standards.

Despite that minor detail, the metropolitan area should be a three hockey team town as it has been since the New Jersey Devils arrived from Colorado thirty years ago.  Quite obviously, the Rangers dominate the landscape.  But the rivalries have been good for the Islanders and Devils respectively.  What is ironic about the arrangement however is the Devils have won three Stanley Cups since their arrival, and of course the Islanders dynasty of the 1980's is the stuff of legend.  In the face of seven Stanley Cups between them, the Rangers have secured one over the same time.

While it may not be any consolation to Long Islanders, the team will still remain in the New York metropolitan area (including Long Island), and thus accessible to most fans.  This relocation sure beats a more distant move to far off places like Kansas City who built a brand new arena and have been trying to secure a team.  And for argument sake, what about towns like Seattle, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and others?

Charles Wang also announced the team will not re-brand, and will remain the New York Islanders.  And that's where I draw the line.  Had the club changed their identity, sure, I would have bought a jersey and attended a few games.  None of that would have interfered with me being a Rangers fan.  But if they are setting up camp in Brooklyn, only to remain the New York Islanders?  Fuhgeddaboudit!  They will have no fan in me.  I'm in no particular hurry to see their Stanley Cup banners and retired numbers hang from the Barclays rafters either.  Potvin Still Sucks as far as I'm concerned.  However, this will be interesting to say the least.  Having said that, I'm glad at least the team will stay in the area, and the Rangers versus Islanders rivalry will continue.

On a separate note, having the name Islanders and their team logo disappear from Hockey's landscape would have been a shame as well.  I don't have to like the team, but I will admit the Islanders logo; the Long Island graphic with the NY; is one of the most iconic logos in the NHL.  Who ever designed it, nailed it.


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