Are the Islanders Moving?

by John Furgele

Newsday is reporting that the New York Islanders will be play a 2009-2010 pre-season game at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.  The Sprint Center opened in October, 2006, an 18,000 seat arena that is looking for a NBA or NHL tenant.  The Islanders have called the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum home since they entered the league in the 1972-1973 season.  Owner Charles Wang has plans to develop the area around the NC with stores, boutiques, restaurants in addition to building a new playpen for the Islanders, who won four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980-1983.

The Islanders lease at the NC is a bad one, and Wang, founder of Computer Associates reports that the Islanders lose $20 million per year playing in Uniondale.  Negotiations have stalled and with the economy in tatters, there won’t be any new arena—or other development—on this part of Long Island for quite some time. 

The Islanders have the worst record in the NHL but a storied history.  Players like Bossy, Trottier, Gillies, Nystrom, Bourne, Smith and Potvin are synonymous with championships.  Their legendary games with the rival New York Rangers still rev up the faithful, even in a long 82 game season. 

But, does the New York area need three NHL teams?  More importantly, can they support three?  Even with a brand new arena, Devils attendance has never been great.  The Rangers do well, because they play in Manhattan at the famed Madison Square Garden.  Perhaps the Islanders are just part of a market correction and no longer can fit in a crowded New York sports landscape.

The New Jersey Nets are planning to move to Brooklyn, but plans for an arena/development project have also stalled.  Rumors persist that eventually the Nets will move north to Newark and share the Prudential Center with the hockey Devils.  But, could there be a surprise?

The ABA New York Nets played and shared the NC with the Islanders back in the 1970s, winning ABA titles in 1974 and 1976 with Julius Erving as their star.  Maybe, just maybe, Long Island could woo the Nets back home, build a new arena and keep professional sports on Long Island.

But, that could be too late.  The Kansas City Tornadoes are ready to take the ice.

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2 Responses to “Are the Islanders Moving?”

  1. Butch's Helmet Says:

    Mr. Furgele:

    There are many interesting (at least to me) dynamics with a possible move of the Islanders. I simply cannot see the NHL giving up the huge population masses of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. On the other hand, the only way a team is moving in today’s current economic climate is to a city with a building that is ready to fly. I think the NHL is in for some harder-than-usual times. The Phoenix franchise is clearly in trouble despite a new arena that was going to make everything okay. What about the usual troubled suspects in Columbus, Atlanta, and Miami? All three are around 80 percent capacity in terms of attendance capacity. Nashville continues to struggle and despite a Stanley Cup less than three seasons ago, the Carolina Hurricanes are still a challenged organization. That’s nearly a quarter of the league that has significant issues.

    My point being that the NHL’s problems run much deeper than “build the Islanders a new building, move the Coyotes to Kansas City.” With the exception of the Islanders, all these teams are playing in new buildings. It’s easy to say “well, just move Atlanta to Quebec City and Nashville to Hamilton and Phoenix back to Winnipeg and Miami to Saskatoon.” Well, as most people are well aware, despite the troubles of the Atlanta Thrashers, the Atlanta Thrashers are an entity that are worth a whole lot more than the Quebec City Les Thrash.

    With regards to the New Jersey Nets, my recent evaluations of a couple pieces of real property in Brooklyn tells me that the Nets move to the Barclays Center is years away and that they will be sharing a venue with the Devils for sometime in the Garden State.

  2. johnny228 Says:

    Good stuff, BH. Right now, the Nets do NOT share the Prudential Center with the Devils. They should have moved to the PC when the Devils did, but they might have liked the arena so much that a move to Brooklyn would have been in jeopardy. Playing games at the Meadowlands is a mistake; the fans know the building is in lame duck status, so they don’t bother going.

    The New York Metro doesn’t need three hockey teams, and I’m not sure if it really needs two basketball teams. Even when the Nets were making NBA Finals appearances, they had trouble selling early round playoff games.

    The Islanders are a tough call. Long Islanders love the fact that it is Long Island’s team, the only professional sports team that actually plays on Long Island. They don’t want to lose them. They want them to play well, so they can justify going to the games. But, if the team can’t win, the average fan is not going to go the NC, an antiquated building when they team began playing there in 1972.

    This is where Bettman needs to step in and try to help the Islanders stay on Long Island, but deep down, he probably wants the money that the Kansas City Komets would give the league. But, Bettman and his NBA sidekick have never stepped in to prevent any team from moving, so good luck Long Island getting the “commissh” to help.

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