Gallof: For Islanders, Sticking Around Starting To Look Less Probable

Venue Clock Is Ticking And Few Viable Solutions Are Presenting Themselves

By B.D. Gallof,

NEW YORK (WFAN) — The song goes a little something like this:

“All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go; I’m standing here outside your door; I hate to wake you up to say goodbye”

John Denver

More than a year ago an Islanders source warned me that the minority percentage of possible suitors outside of New York would rapidly climb. Eventually, that person said, this idea might even become an even bigger possibility.

I was told this right before the referendum attempt by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Islanders owner Charles Wang blew into pieces due to a recession, politics and the county’s severe growth limitations.

So, now that we are at the end of what has been a long season for hapless fans who have watched their hapless team once again come up short of achieving any real goals, it is also time to really look at the team with correct lenses.

The Islanders may very well be packing their suitcases in a few years.

Now, if you sat down Wang, or the NHL Board of Governors, or former Lighthouse Project loyalists, they would tell you what has been clear for a while — that they have no clue where the Islanders will be beyond the end of the Nassau Coliseum lease in 2015. This very real fear is also starting to trickle down to the team’s staff.

That said, you can bet that once the lease ends, it will be the very last time they step foot inside Nassau Coliseum, if not the entire county.

The fact is the Islanders’ situation has reached crisis stage, and all the signals from Wang indicate even worse. He has been silent since Aug. 1 and before then when the Lighthouse Project went dark. He has had General Manager Garth Snow install a budget and tie up what was in previous summers an open wallet to pursue free agents.

But the unfortunate truth is, the Islanders are poised to function at the salary cap floor and tie in key pieces to a rebuild beyond 2014-15.

Thick public relations and fan cheerleading simply will not stick anymore.

Any conversation about a venue involving fans and media, no matter the PR goo or political tomfoolery, needs to deal with the fact that there is the strongest likelihood come the end of the 2014-15 season that the Islanders would entertain all suitors for a chance to make their best business decision. The likelihood that a suitor would be outside New York is now higher than ever before.

Let me repeat that: the chances they remain in the area are now less than before.

Places with venue options, a built-in audience and interest to allow a team that might be a contender during the end of a rebuild are planning to strike at just around that time, the end of the current lease. These places are where Wang could move, collect the boon of attaining a higher value than just a small market team over several years, and then have far more long-term options.

New York, it seems, just won’t be able to compete.

Islanders fans need to begin recognizing that an end game is starting to be put in place and that municipalities like Quebec, Seattle and perhaps other emerging options elsewhere are beginning to be more the likely options IF this owner gets his way while standing pat.

Those cities will come to him.

From people I’ve spoken to, Quebec is considered the most likely suitor. I have been told for well over a year not to discount Quebec, but that has only turned into a shrill siren while local options have dissipated like an Islanders post-trade deadline playoff push. Quebec, and others, have the means, the venue and perhaps the most to offer to overpay and entice Wang to sell or even move the team and remain as owner.

Seattle, with its current venue plans, has also become a serious option. According to media sources in Seattle, the city is currently more focused on the Phoenix Coyotes’ situation, but that can change depending on the NHL’s stubbornness to make the game work in that market.

This might fly in the face of those in the league who have stated they want the Islanders to remain right where they are.

However, as one source told me recently, it’s doubtful the NHL will be as much of an obstacle as it has indicated it will be.

“Leaving Long Island is a five-minute story. Coming to a place like Canada is far bigger. And remember, this is the league that shut down a season. What do they really care about Islanders fans?” the source said.

It’s true, the NHL is in the business of making those team businesses that have a good rapport with their communities thrive, not be a stumbling block for an area that has fumbled a venue miserably with all sorts of levels of political chicanery and hackery.

I have been told that even the Islanders believe that Nassau is a dead end, despite the show that was put on by members of the county Legislature. They might still go through the motions on the off chance of a miracle, but most with a discerning eye can see that they are playing this out much like the team’s own playoff push.

As I mentioned, according to a Nassau County Executive administration source, the Islanders had not contacted that office until the Newsday story ran about the Mangano meeting with potential developers. That source also cited that the Isles are likely done in Nassau.

In other words, barring a miracle, Nassau is done as an Islanders option come 2015. That wreckage and loss, when the Isles cease to be a county taxpayer, will be left piled on many a politician’s feet that no amount of partisan rhetoric will be able to quell. In fact, despite that lark of a referendum, there were severe questions asked of the public vote and the viability of Nassau County to offer anything even before it was held.

So let us now address the slim local options that are left for these Islanders.

Brooklyn remains a “wild card” according to a source. However, as we all saw at a recent game where Bruce Ratner showed up to plug next October’s preseason game at the Barclays Center, it is all just a pony show. Ratner had nothing substantial to say except he wants the Islanders to remain in the area.

As said in this column previously, for Brooklyn to be an option for Wang, it must include a combination or at least one option of profit assurance as well as development options. Furthermore, according to an NHL source, the borough must do something about the limited hockey seating option, which really shoots the Barclays Center in the foot because, just in terms of audience potential, there is a ceiling.

Brooklyn does, however, remain a short-term option if any areas outside of New York or even a miracle in the form of a Nassau Hail Mary are lofted in at the last minute.

Suffolk County is considered a dark horse for the Isles. It is in debt up to its eyes and in need of a fiscal jump. It has none of the limitations or looming oversight that Nassau has. However, not a word has come from Suffolk, not even a well-crafted rumor.

Queens ceased being a player once the Islanders showed no interest in placing an RFP (request for proposal) last September. However, with the Mets’ owners having settled the Madoff Ponzi lawsuit just Tuesday, it might open that door merely as a potential option due to an ongoing relationship with Wang.

Another as of yet undetermined factor is Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been busy fiddling about with casinos to get his state out of the massive hole it has dug for itself. However, his administration stated that he was looking closely at last summer’s referendum vote. Odds are, the results were a non-starter for the Islanders up in Albany.

So despite these options, Islanders fans need to start understanding that they are now just a pawn to an end-game of something spinning wildly out of control. The danger of the Islanders leaving New York is very real. The only option for fans is placing significant pressure on the Islanders and their owner.

The Isles need to make a definitive statement, if not promise, of commitment to fans that is more than just spin, public relations, or an attempt to sell season tickets before leaving town.

Read more columns by B.D. Gallof

What do you think the Islanders’ next move should be? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …

  • Isles27

    Quebec announced today that they will start construction on a new building this Sept and it will be open by Sept 2015 so it looks like they will be getting a team, which one, who knows. As far as the asbestos issue, you can come up with a million theories on who was behind this but I see no reason why Wang would look to personally screw Mangano because Mangano did throw him a bone by having that vote on Aug 1, a vote that has caused Mangano problems politically with both parties and I’m sure this vote will be brought up in a negative way when he runs for reelection. I can’t see why Wang would have a beef with Mangano. People bring up Mangano when they mention the LHP but Mangano had nothing to do with that.

    Lucky you Gallof, there won’t be any lack of material on this subject with all these twists and turns.

  • Doug F.


    Until you name your sources your article makes no sense..

  • Tom

    In this economy would you spend your hard earned money on the islanders they have not made the playoffs in five years have not won a playoff round in 20 years. its a wonder they draw at all. shows how passionate the islanders fan base is. THis is all on wang if this team was a winner there wouldnt be this problem.

  • LI Joe

    looks like quebec to me. if i was an islander fan (i’m not thank God) i would start to learn french EH

    • Warren

      Yet your from LONG ISLAND!! All ranger fans on long island are fakes. I could probably name more players say on the 1999 ranger$ then you. Yea thank g-D YOU ROOT for a team thats won one cup in 71 years.

      • Roy

        At least they will be here for many more seasons

  • lee

    Vegas, Baby!

  • b_olton

    It will be very VERY interesting to see how management comments on this fiasco going into next season. After all they still need to sell tickets. Without a venue or future for that matter beyond 2015 forget about signing anyone decent over the summer. Forget about touting their awesome draft prospects as they may never be seen in an Isles sweater. Forget about signing those prospects. So knowing full well it will be another cap floor roster (below actually) that will, once again, finish in the bottom 5…who the hell is gonna wanna buy tickets? Luckily Snow is a world class liar..I’m sure he’ll come up with something.

    • Warren

      We dont need that many free agents. We 2-3 defensemen and one forward and we can make the playoffs. Sure, we can use a good starter. Dont know if Nabakov is the answer but hoping either Nillson or Poulin can become nhl goalies next year. We are a lot closer then people think. We would be in the playoffs this season with an AVERAGE defense. We just need to get that playoff game at the coliseum and the world can see how loud we get.

  • itispathetic

    Here is the petition for all Islanders fans sick of having their franchise owned by a guy, whom has basically been hijacking them:

  • Warren

    People dont mention this but we dont just lose the Islanders we lose the Arena as well! Nothing has been built on that site since the Marriot(owned by Wang now). Nassau County has done nothing to revamp the coliseum no money put in. the only money that has been put in is by Charles Wang. People dont get it, we lose the Islanders, we lose an ARENA, WE LOSE IT ALL!!!!!

  • Lifelong Long Island Resident

    PLEASE sell the Islanders to the highest bidder. As a Lifelong Long Island Resident, I can’t afford paying $15,000 a year in property taxes. Please do ANYTHING to that complete waste of money that I can’t afford. I go to work to pay taxes, not to pay for stuff my family needs.

    • Tony

      Maybe you should move to Seattle instead.

    • Warren

      You are an idiot and not a true long Islander if you even live on Long Island. If we lose the Islanders and yes that will mean the coliseum will shut down, your taxes will go up. The county makes money off the coliseum events…the islanders unfortunately due to the lease DO NOT! You get it…Islanders leave..the old coliseum shuts down…no money…tax payers make up for lost money.

    • LetsGoIsles

      Um, this comment makes no sense to me. Selling the Isles to the highest bidder likely, as the article says, means they leave New York. As another commenter stated, the county makes money off of NVMC events. So, you say: “PLEASE sell the Islanders…” so you’re taxes don’t go up? So, taking the only major tenant out of a money making facility for the county does what to your taxes? Because I hate to break it to you but the NVMC isn’t exactly a jumping joint these days outside of Isles games. Sell the Isles, NVMC goes dark or mostly so – then watch your taxes skyrocket.

    • Steve

      If the Islanders leave, you really think your property taxes are going to go down? Are you for real? Do you know where you live? Nassau County is broke! Once the Islanders skip down and they tear down the Coliseum, Nassau County will move quickly to approve the new developers to build another mall, a hotel, restaurants, housing, etc…And guess what happens after that “LIfelong Long Island Resident” ? Your taxes will go up! Running the Islanders out of town will accomplish absolutely nothing, and your taxes will go up regardless. Unbelievable! Just as well. Nassau County doesn’t deserve the Islanders anymore….

  • Warren

    NO TEAM IS EVER MOVING TO KANSAS CITY!! NO ONE! The city is used as a ploy. Pittsburgh did it as well. Gut feeling: Islanders get a 25th hour deal in Nassau County. Always felt that. If not we could be in trouble but brooklyn and queens are still options. I dont like Brooklyn because its far and only 14,500 seats. Way too smal!

    • itispathetic

      Did you even read this? Not once did B.D. mention K.C. He spoke about Quebec City. Reading is fundamental.

      • Warren

        Reading is fundamental…I was responding to someone who said they will move to KC.

      • eastcoastcynic

        BD also spoke about Seattle as a player too.

    • Worried

      Way too small? It is 1,700 seats less than the Coliseum. How many times this year did the Isles bring in 14k? Don’t let that be the difference of Long Island losing this franchise.

      • Warren

        You are right, we cant let that be the difference but if the Islanders were a playoff team would the 14,500 be too little. Yea it would be and with our young players and prospects we should be a playoff team for years to come and if we had a proper owner a stanley cup contender! At that point 14,500 will not be enough seating. Although, I dont see too many long islanders coming to BK during the week unless we have a REALLY good team.

      • itispathetic


        The fact that the Islanders attendance is lousy is irrespective to whether or not Barclay’s is a long term solution.

        Actually, the fact that the Islanders don’t draw flies on weekdays is more indictative of the way ownership has let this team disintegrate by divesting and not spending any more $$ than necessary in players, scouting, and other hockey ops staff.

        Lousy team for better part of 20 years = lousy attendance.

        Now, here is where the aforementioned is more important:

        Lousy attendance/consumer apathy = Not politically viable.

        Wang overestimated the franchises political viability by a mile, and concurrently killed whatever was left (instead of building it back up) by putting a lousy product on the ice way more often than not.

        That is why Brooks article about Islander irrelevancy is important. Ireelevant franchise lead to fan apathy, which leads to franchise’s death.

  • honest

    Kansas City.
    AEG has an empty arena just waiting for a Hockey tenant.
    Seattle is a long-shot, the new arena won’t be done by 2015 – more like 2018.

    • eastcoastcynic

      Seattle should be sooner than 2018 and the NHL is willing to let a Seattle team play in the Key Arena until it is completed.

      Seattle has the TV demographics that the NHL likes and Kansas City lacks.

      Seattle is a “contenda” not by any means a long shot.

  • Steve Chong

    BD you’re falling into a general perception if Isles show no interest in WIllets point, then the Queens dream is dead. WEll, an arena could be built next to Citi Field, ADJACENT to WIllets Point. Even a kid would understand it’s a lot easier to build a structure on an empty parking lot. Plus no arena is zoned for WP; only a convention center.

    • John O

      That’s actually my dream scenario…that Wang is working with Wilpon to build a stadium next to CitiField, with the Mets and Islanders cross promoting eachother. The Barclays center would be a temporary home till the new building is errected.

      Bloomberg says he wants the Isles and is desperate to do something with WIllets Point (and that all takes time). I’m sure Wang would be ok with Brooklyn as a temporary home. Goodness knows Wilpon needs as much help as he can get people interested in either team.

      The only wrinkle is Quebec City’s desire to overpay for a team. They REALLY want a team, badly. So much so they’re building an arena in spite of the fact they don’t have a team. If QC ponies enough cash to Wang (who has been bleeding money for years), no amount of planning in New York will keep him here.

      Lets see how the Candian dollar fares in 2015.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Giving Tuesday
Charles Osgood Event

Listen Live