NHL Commissioner Talks New Owners, Barclays Center During Interview With Francesa

NEW YORK (WFAN) — As far as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is concerned, the Islanders have a very bright future.

Speaking to WFAN’s Mike Francesa on Tuesday, Bettman said the Isles have emerged from a dark place in very good shape. Considering the money they are now spending and the guaranteed revenue they will get once they move into Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season, all the years of stress and turmoil toward the end of their stay in Nassau County have been worth it.

“In terms of how things have and are working out, under the circumstances that we were dealing with — and that’s not to denigrate anything — I think if Islanders fans and Charles Wang would have had their choice 10 years ago they would have begun construction on a new arena in Nassau County,” Bettman said. “But that never happened and that was not to be in the cards, and everybody is fortunate that there was a new building in Brooklyn being built that everybody is excited about and that there are two people who want to join Charles in owning the Islanders and ultimately taking over control. So I think that qualifies as good news.”

The two people Bettman was referring to are new minority owners Jonathan Ledecky and Scott Malkin. They will assume control of the franchise in two years, with current owner Charles Wang then retaining a minority stake in the club.

Bettman said Islanders fans are lucky to have Ledecky and Malkin.

“Charles’ intention is to stay in as well, but as life moves I think he wants the opportunity to focus on other things,” Bettman said. “With Scott Malkin and John Ledecky, the franchise is getting two first-rate quality people who are enthused about hockey in New York and the Islanders in particular.”

Ledecky and Malkin will reportedly bring in other potential partners who will provide ownership expertise and finances.

As for the Islanders of today, they enter their final season at Nassau Coliseum off a highly productive offseason that saw them spend a lot of money, which is a far cry from the salary cap floor days of the past. With the big acquisitions of Stanley Cup-winning defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy over the weekend, the Islanders have upgraded each aspect of their roster significantly and are now thought of as a team that should at the very least make the playoffs, something they have done just once in the last seven seasons.

“I think the Islanders’ prospects are strong, solid. They are putting together a good young team and moving to a state-of-the-art arena. Even though it wasn’t specifically designed for hockey, it will certainly improve things for them and their fans,” Bettman said.

Over the last two seasons the Islanders have played a pair of exhibition games at Barclays Center, which was built with only basketball in mind. Though there are some obstructed view seats for hockey, Bettman said the pros of the retrofitted arena far outweigh the cons.

“I think there are not a whole lot of changes that they can make that would be materially significant,’ Bettman said of the arena. “The fact is the seating capacity will be around 15,000 and I’m OK with that. It’s not going to be bigger in terms of unobstructed seats because of the way the sight lines were configured. There had been a couple of instances where basketball teams who were building buildings thought it was a good idea to make the sight lines specific to basketball, and in both cases if they had to do it over again I think they wouldn’t have done that.

“But it is what it is and it is certainly an upgrade over the Nassau Coliseum,” Bettman added.

The Islanders open the regular season on Friday night in Carolina and play their home opener the following night, also against the Hurricanes.

Bettman spoke about several other topics during his chat with Francesa, including the new rules changes for the 2014-15 season. To hear his complete interview, please click on the audio link below.

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