By B.D. Gallof, WFAN.com
Back on Aug.5, I warned fans of a severe about-face within the Islanders organization starting with the owner. Charles Wang felt let down by Nassau County fans who didn’t use the clout of their will to at least get the Coliseum referendum vote in front of NIFA, the watchdog in charge of the county’s funding. This despite the fact that the vote’s timing was deliberately engineered to be advantageous to its passing.
Since that time, Wang had been silent on the issue with Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who is now fielding development proposals from former competitors. This caused a Mangano administration source to tell me more than a month ago that the franchise relocating to Brooklyn was more likely because the executive had heard nothing from the Islanders.
Recently, New York Times hockey columnist and sometimes IslandersPointBlank.com blogger Chris Botta also broached this subject with his sources and ultimately got no promises or assurances that the team would remain in Nassau.
This coincides with what I have been hearing since August, basically the types of things no Islanders fan would want to know about this franchise’s future in the location it has called home since 1972.
Interestingly enough, Islanders Senior VP Michael Picker was a surprise guest on Tuesday at a Nassau Legislature hearing. His words were that he and Mangano’s group had been in touch, and discussed the county getting something together by the end of 2012. That’s a pretty quick turnaround from the previous silence cited a month ago.
Perhaps they snapped into action when Mangano started fielding offers from other developers for the hub and surrounding areas.
I asked a source in the Mangano administration if it seemed odd that Picker and the Islanders came out of the woodwork suddenly when Newsday ran a story saying that Long Island developers were meeting with Mangano.
The response: “He shoots, he scores.”
If you are looking for a pattern here, you have to wonder if Wang, himself, is not pushing that Nassau option, but that his principles are acting on his behalf. According to an Islanders source, it is their opinion that Wang is not likely to make any statements, because he does not want to take away any negotiating power.
Instead, his interest seems to be to collect as many options as he can and bide time. If true, then finality either way is something that might not happen within this or even next year, but instead closer to the end of the lease at the Coliseum, which expires following the 2014-15 season.
The best (and most disturbing) description I was given is that Wang is basically a free agent. He and the Islanders will give everyone reason to give their best possible offer, and in the end they will make a decision that is best for them going forward. An Islanders source said the team considers Picker like Wang’s agent.
This does not necessarily mean what is best for the NHL, nor the Islanders’ fans. The same Islanders source agreed: “The best deal wins, period.”
This will remain a glaring problem unless Wang finally speaks up after having cooled off from last summer’s fiasco, and shows a willingness to bridge the divide himself, something that shouldn’t leave Islanders fans holding their breath.
So as Picker, Wang’s former head of the Lighthouse Project, pleaded Tuesday for Nassau to get a feasible plan together by the end of 2012, fans who have been following this saga have to view his overture as a road to nowhere, while others will undoubtedly be left rolling their eyes.
Meanwhile, Nassau’s political flacks still seem to be asking why doesn’t Wang just build his own venue? This is the silliest cop out of all by the county because it will be the ones losing money should the Islanders, a mere tenant at the Coliseum, leave. It only proves the fact that Nassau is in no position to fund anything, much less admit with NIFA watching and approving almost its every move, that even if the county wanted to do something, it can’t.
One can wonder or even surmise here that the Islanders want to call Mangano’s “bluff,” and get Nassau removed from the equation by pushing forward.
The biggest question that remains is what other areas are the Islanders possibly targeting outside New York? Have the Islanders’ principles also pressed on those in power in Suffolk County and Queens within the last few weeks? Who and where else are they working on to attract as another active suitor that will then give them even more choices and options? I can guarantee you more will enter this fray, especially outside of New York.
In the end, once again we are left with lots of questions, contradictions and have been forced to entrust those in the Nassau political system with getting something together. It appears Mangano does not believe the Islanders are actually serious, while the team is sitting back and seemingly playing out the string.
This is not a comforting scenario following the Lighthouse Project and Coliseum referendum vote failures. Nor should it assuage Long Island residents’ fears in any way.
The truth is nobody should be walking away from Tuesday’s meeting, which was no different than any other previous meeting and the ongoing rhetoric that has accompanied them. The only difference here is the Islanders’ threat of leaving is very real and very much an ongoing issue.
Read more columns by B.D. Gallof
Do you think the Islanders are finished in Nassau County or do you think cooler heads will prevail at the 11th hour? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below. …