By B.D. Gallof, WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — The confirmed preseason NHL game next season at the Barclays Center is part of a larger initiative to get the Islanders and owner Charles Wang to consider permanent relocation to Brooklyn, WFAN.com has learned.
According to sources, including one within the NHL and another with knowledge of the Barclays Center, the venue is making an “aggressive sales pitch.” In addition, the league source said “the chances of the New York Islanders to Brooklyn are actually pretty good.” The preseason game, sources said, is being viewed as a chance for Wang to get a sense of what life would be like in Brooklyn.
Barclays Center officials have been using the Islanders as an enticement to lure corporate sponsors, another source said.
As for the territorial issue that some media outlets have been citing as an issue for the Islanders, who originally paid the Rangers $4.5 million in 1972 for permission to take root in Nassau County, an NHL source said: “… 99 percent certain the Isles wouldn’t have to pay the Rangers a dime if they moved to Brooklyn or Queens. … There is no fee, but the Rangers wouldn’t be happy about it. But there’s not much they could do.”
According to some, there is a 1986 amendment to the 1972 agreement that allows the Islanders to relocate to Queens and Brooklyn.
This latest development in the Islanders’ long-discussed but rarely elaborated on plans for the future seems to fly in the face of popular thinking. Wang has lost hundreds of millions of dollars since becoming part-owner of the franchise in 2000. Conventional wisdom has suggested that Wang would look to recoup those losses in any decision involving a new or revamped arena, regardless of its location.
However, due to Wang’s silence on the issue since the Nassau County arena referendum failed to pass last August, there’s really no way to know at this point if there has been a shift in his thinking.
The Islanders have operated as a small market team over the last few seasons, with their arena issues and red tape playing a major role in their refusal to spend money to hasten the club’s development on the ice. What we’ve seen since has been a methodical and youth-infused rebuilding process that is now in its fourth season and showing some signs of bearing fruit.
The NHL and Commissioner Gary Bettman are taking a wait-and-see attitude on the future of the franchise, despite a visit by Barclays’ officials to the NHL offices last year after voters in Nassau shot down the referendum.
“I don’t know, and we haven’t focused on this, whether it works for the fan base in Nassau, Suffolk and Queens, because driving to Brooklyn from Nassau and Suffolk is not the easiest thing to do,” Bettman told MSG Network’s Stan Fischler just this past November.
So whether the NHL is on board with Brooklyn’s apparent plan remains to be seen. However, it is certainly a better option for the fan base than to lose the team to Quebec or elsewhere when the club’s lease runs out following the 2014-15 season.
After what happened in Atlanta with the Thrashers’ move to Winnipeg last summer, Isles fans most likely will agree.
Do you take this as a positive development, or will you remain in wait-and-see mode like the NHL? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below. …