August 1st, 2011… Will New York Islander fans view the day as the beginning of the end? A paltry 18 per cent of Nassau County voters went to the polls to vote on a bond issue that would have helped the County and Islanders owner Charles Wang build a new arena for US$350 million.
But wait… there was suppose to be a small voter turnout. That was part of the plan. The dog days of summer were supposed to be good for the Islanders fans. The rallies organized by Wang and his cronies over the past few weeks were going to spur the hardcore hockey fans of Long Island to go to the polls.
But their plan had a few flaws, including the fact that Nassau County (like many governments in the U.S.) is struggling to keep public services going at an acceptable level. The County is $100 million in debt.
First, it was the Town of Hempstead telling Mr. Wang that his Lighthouse Project was not going to be approved; and now the citizens of Nassau County have told Wang that they can’t help support at new home for his hockey team. That’s two clear strikes against the once proud franchise.
Will there be a third pitch to swing at? Only time will tell. But, unless Mr. Wang is prepared to spend some — no, rather a lot — of his own money, I doubt there will be hockey at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum beyond 2015.
And with the negative vote, stories will start to surface on the potential new home for the Islanders:
– Will it be in Brooklyn, where the new Barclays Center is a year from being finished, but is not designed for hockey?
– Will it be Kansas City where Anschutz Entertainment Group runs the Sprint Center and is looking for at least one, maybe even two, major sports tenants?
– Will it be Quebec City, where a new $400-million arena plan appears to have hit the skids, but could be resuscitated by 2015 when the Islanders’ lease expires?
– Could Seattle become the home of a team for the first time since around the time of the infamous influenza epidemic of 1919?
– Is this the perfect opportunity to bring an established team to be Toronto’s 2nd franchise?
But perhaps they shouldn’t move at all. Moving a struggling franchise to one of those first four cities where big-time pro hockey has already failed may not be the right answer for the game.
There is one more option for the future of the Islanders. It’s one that will receive absolutely NO consideration by the NHL Board of Governors. It’s called contraction.
Think about it. Mothball the team, disperse the players, realign divisions and maybe even find another franchise to join Mr. Wang’s team on the bench, and the NHL may be better for it.
The U.S. economy is far from healthy, and it might be a stretch to expect a team to succeed while the government contemplates its debt ceiling.
And before any of you charge me with blasphemy, I’m not saying do it.
I am saying, think about it.