The New York Islanders are not a very good hockey team. They haven’t been a very good hockey team for quite a while. The last time they made the playoffs was 2007. The last time they made it out of the first round was 1993.
The last 20-or-so years have not been kind to the Islanders.
But this isn’t just another struggling hockey team. This isn’t the Panthers or the Coyotes. This isn’t like the Atlanta Thrashers moving to Winnipeg. This is the team that was once one of the greatest dynasties in hockey. They won four-straight Stanley Cups between 1980-1983.
They also play in the New York market, the largest television market in North America. That’s why the recent news that Nassau County voters have rejected a deal to pay for a new arena on Long Island is a big deal.
You’d have to assume that the NHL desperately wants the Islanders to succeed in Nassau.
Of course, the recent vote doesn’t guarantee that the Islanders will be heading out of town. The team has a lease to play in Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum until 2015 and they will honour that lease. That means Charles Wang has some time to come up with a new plan to stay in the area.
We saw how the Pittsburgh Penguins bounced back from crushing arena news a few years ago to secure an arena deal that saw them stay in Pittsburgh at the new CONSOL Energy Center. They worked out a “Plan B” that proved to be successful. Now the Islanders will need to count on their “Plan B” to keep them on Long Island.
Would the Islanders actually move?
As always, Kansas City will look like an attractive option to a team without an arena. The city pushed hard to get the Penguins as tenants for the beautiful Sprint Center a few years ago and you’d have to assume that they’d be interested in the Islanders as well. The idea of the team moving to Brooklyn has been tossed around as well. Charles Wang would be wise to at least talk to these cities, even if only to put pressure on Long Island to keep the team where it is. Again, that strategy worked for Mario Lemieux.
The NHL likely wouldn’t be too thrilled about the Islanders moving. As much as we all loved the Whalers, Nordiques and the original Jets, none of those teams had the history of the New York Islanders. The Islanders have won four Stanley Cups, which is tied with the Chicago Blackhawks and the New York Rangers for sixth-most in league history.
The Montreal Maroons are the last NHL team to fold after winning the Cup. That happened in 1947. The original Ottawa Senators are the only other NHL team to move and/or fold after claiming Lord Stanley’s Cup in the NHL.
Teams just don’t move after they’ve won the Cup and especially not after they’ve won four Cups.
What is Charles Wang’s Plan B? Nobody is sure yet. It could include talking to other cities, it could include some sort of partnership to get the arena done on Long Island and it could include a number of other things. The NHL has fought hard to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix and it would make sense to assume that they will fight at least as hard (if not harder) to keep the Islanders in New York.
The team and its history are simply too important to the NHL for the league to ignore. Gary Bettman came out to support the Islanders a few days ago before the arena vote took place and we probably haven’t heard the last from Bettman on this situation.
Between now and 2015, the Islanders and Nassau will attempt to work out a deal. That means there is plenty of time and though things don’t look good right now, it’s not over either.