NEW YORK (WFAN) — The Islanders’ owners are committed to keeping the team in New York but a long-term return to Nassau Coliseum isn’t the answer, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday.
Talking to WFAN’s Mike Francesa, Bettman conceded that it’s “probably true” that neither the Islanders nor Barclays Center are happy with the team’s current arrangment. However, the commissioner didn’t feel comfortable predicting a divorce.
“What that ultimately means, I’m not sure anybody’s reached a definitive conclusion,” he said.
The Islanders moved from Nassau Coliseum to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center before last season, but Barclays officials have reportedly concluded the venue would be better off financially without the Islanders, leaving the NHL franchise scrambling to find a new home.
This season, the Islanders averaged 13,101 fans per game, which ranked 28th out of 30 NHL teams. That’s down from 13,626 last season and down from 15,334 in 2014-15 — their last year at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders and Barclays have an unusual agreement in which the arena pays the team $53.5 million a year in exchange for business operations, which includes tickets and suite sales.
If Barclays terminates the lease, the Islanders can remain there through the 2018-19 season. If the Islanders exercise their out clause, they could leave after next season.
Meanwhile, the Islanders are considering building a new arena, either near Belmont Park or Citi Field.
“The fact that they’re looking at building a hockey-functioning building is a good thing,” Bettman said. “The fact that there are a lot of options in terms of where they can build it as they’re considering the possibilities, I think that’s all good. And if I’m an Islander fan and I live in Nassau and Suffolk, I’ve got to be somewhere between excited and intrigued at the possibilities.”
Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which manages both Barclays Center and the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum, is preparing a pitch to bring the Islanders back to the arena they called home for 43 years, Newsday reported Wednesday night.
Bettman, however, didn’t seem to support that idea, saying the Coliseum is “not a long-term option.”
When asked if it could be a short-term solution, Bettman said: “I don’t know the answer to that.”
But Bettman said Islanders primary owner Scott Malkin is not entertaining any possibilities outside the metro area.
“Scott Malkin did not buy the New York Islanders to move them somewhere else,” Bettman said.
To listen to the full interview with Bettman, in which he also discusses this season, the NHL sitting out the Winter Olympics and more, click on the audio player above.