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The Brooklyn Islanders? Not likely.

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Nassau Coliseum is decrepit, but Isles fans may not be keen about going to Brooklyn to see their team. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

By Stu Hackel

So here we go again. Islanders owner Charles Wang, still unable to get any movement in Nassau County on a new arena, has decided to have his team host a preseason game in a large arena elsewhere, one that does not already house an NHL club. The obvious implication is that if he can’t get a deal to his liking on Long Island, he’s got options. Look out Long Island — Charles Wang is moving his team.

Well, he’s done this before with Kansas City. This time he’s doing it with Brooklyn. But, like the Kansas City ploy — where the game drew only 9,792 people, thus cooling any ardor Wang may have had for relocating there — this Brooklyn gambit is likely more of a charade than a bona fide threat.

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  • Published On Feb 01, 2012
  • No end to Islanders’ woes

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    Rookie goalie Anders Nilsson was thrown to the marauding Penguins in the latest sorry display by the perpetually rebuilding Islanders, who are again sinking out of sight. (Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE)

    By Stu Hackel

    Sidney Crosby’s magnificent return on Monday night overshadowed — well, more like dwarfed — the sorry performance of the team he singlehandedly dismantled: the New York Islanders. Heap as many accolades you want on Crosby, they are all deserved as he commanded his superior skills to produce a magical night for the NHL and the world of sports.

    But let’s also look at the team he sliced and diced, one that is on the verge of kissing yet another season goodbye after having not even completed one quarter of the schedule. That team is, once again, a mess.
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  • Published On Nov 22, 2011
  • Bettman sees Isles staying in New York

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    Some day, some way, the Islanders will get a new arena near the crumbling building they play in now. (Anthony Gruppuso/US PRESSWIRE)

    By Stu Hackel

    On Monday night, I just caught the tail end of the Winnipeg Jets’ game against the visiting Rangers, which, by all accounts, New York was lucky to win, 2-1. In many NHL arenas, frustrated fans would have booed the home team, but in what will almost certainly be a year-long love-in at the little arena on the prairie, Winnipeggers applauded their club for its effort.

    Everyone, it seems, loves the Jets. I’ve been giving my Minnesota North Stars hat a rest and wearing my Jets chapeau lately (the old logo, thank you) and getting compliments from hockey friends about my good taste. I can’t recall where I heard this, perhaps it was the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman on a radio interview, but it seems that our neighbors up north, apart from those in Winnipeg, have made the Jets Canada’s second favorite team. Fans in the rest of the country cheer for their team and then for the Jets, the refugee franchise whose transfer north is celebrated as a symbolic “Screw you!” to the NHL’s Sunbelt strategy.

    The embrace of the Jets, not just on the ice but also at the cash register, has some people wondering: Can the nouvelle Nordiques be far behind?

    Well, no one is reserving moving vans so quickly. We know that won’t happen until Quebec City gets an arena, which is not looming. It has just formed an engineering/architecture group for the $400 million proposed project that was first announced two years ago. No rush, especially because any new building with that price tag is going to draw some fire for being one of the league’s most expensive arenas in what would be the NHL’s second smallest market after Winnipeg and, inevitably, a drain on taxpayers. In fact, the legal wrangling on the new building is just beginning.

    And we know that new arena won’t happen until — and unless — there’s a team that is out of options and has no choice but to relocate to Quebec. There are no expansion plans, at least none that are publicly known. Is an NHL team destined abandon its current market and wear a redesigned Nordiques sweater?

    Gary Bettman apparently doesn’t see the Islanders as being the team to wear that uniform.
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  • Published On Oct 26, 2011
  • Is Columbus the NHL’s next trouble spot?

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    Like the Islanders, the Blue Jackets are threatened by ongoing mediocrity and an onerous arena lease, (Matthew Emmons/US Presswire)

    By Stu Hackel

    New York Islanders owner Charles Wang may have retreated from his veiled threats to move his team unless he gets a new arena, but another NHL owner has now played the relocation card in his effort to reverse the financial plight of his franchise.

    It’s been no secret that the Blue Jackets have lost lots of money in recent seasons — reportedly a stunning $53 million over the previous three years with just under half of that amount, around $25 million, going down the drain last season alone. That’s what can happen when fans are disappointed and become disaffected after seasons of losing or, at best, mediocrity. But another major contributor to the Jackets’ red ink is their lease on Nationwide Arena, which they say makes up $10-$12 million of their losses annually.
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  • Published On Aug 10, 2011
  • Islanders are going nowhere

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    The Isles are stuck in the Nassau Coliseum until their lease runs out in 2015. (Rich Stieglitz/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    On Monday in New York’s Nassau County, a mere 104,000 voters — or about one-tenth of the population – turned out to turn down a new arena for the Islanders, among other projects.  [UPDATE: The final official voter turnout was 154,549 voters, around 11.4 percent of the population, and about 17 percent of the registered voters.] Team owner Charles Wang didn’t say much after the results were clear other than to express his disappointment and heartbreak, and promise to honor the team’s lease at crumbling Nassau Coliseum until it runs out (video).

    That leaves the distinct impression in many quarters that the Islanders won’t be around after that. They’re going to Brooklyn! They’re going to Kansas City! They’re going to Quebec! They’re going to Portland! They’re going to Seattle! They’re going to Hamilton! They’re going to Hartford!

    They’re going nowhere.

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  • Published On Aug 02, 2011
  • A tale of two arenas

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    Believe it or not, the Rangers’ home in the old Madison Square Garden on 8th Avenue near 50th St. in Manhattan was worse than the Islanders’ run-down Nassau Coliseum is now. (John G. Zimmerman/SI)

    By Stu Hackell

    The last few days have brought a number of interesting stories — the Kings filing a grievance on the Ryan Smyth-Colin Fraser deal, Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin beginning his DUI sentence, a pair of veterans – Brent Sopel and Alex Kovalev – heading to the KHL, and the bid submitted in the complicated sale of the Dallas Stars. Any one would be worth writing a post about.

    A few New York-area items crawled into the hockey headlines, too, including the Rangers re-signing their heart-and-soul RFA Ryan Callahan, and the Devils and Islanders pulling off a trade that helps both teams — but not really for hockey reasons. The Devs shipped Brian Rolston and his big contract to the Isles for Trent Hunter and his less-big contract. The deal made Rolston the highest-paid Islander at slightly over $5 million and brought them to within a mere six million — or a few RFA signings and one Alexei Yashin – away from the cap floor of $48.3 million. The deal also freed up money the Devs needed to sign their RFA leftwinger Zach Parise for the season at $6 million.

    Also, today (Monday) is the big referendum on Long Island as Nassau County residents decide if they want to pay for a new arena for Charles Wang’s Isles that he declines to finance himself. I wrote about that a bit last week and before the week ended, both the Rangers and Devils issued statements in support of the new coliseum, and why wouldn’t they? They don’t want the Isles to move. Consider this: 1) The Isles’ two local rivals love the bus ride road trips to Long Island, which are much cheaper than flights elsewhere. 2) The Devs gladly welcome Islanders fans buying tickets when the two teams play in Newark. 3) The Rangers’ parent company, Madison Square Garden, owns the Islanders’ TV rights and wouldn’t want to lose that property. But whether the rivals’ endorsements will mean anything in the final tally is pretty questionable.
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  • Published On Jul 31, 2011
  • For Isles, Alexei Yashin is back in fashion

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    Alexei Yashin was an expensive flop the Islanders had to pay to go away, so why in the name of Jiggs McDonald would they want him back? (Ed Betz/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    It’s been a very strange offseason, one that challenges 2008 with its non-stop Mats Sundin rumors, Scotty Bowman joining the Blackhawks, NHL-KHL hostilities, the Lightning hiring Barry Melrose, and the fall of Boots Dell Biagio. What the Flyers have done recently — trading two of their core players, paying Ilya Bryzgalov more than Tim Thomas, signing Jaromir Jagr, the revelations about their Dry Island – is enough on its own to make this summer bizarre. Add to that the big money paid to James Wisniewski and Christian Ehrhoff, the Panthers commandeering the free agent vacuum cleaner, the Avalanche surrendering a first round (and possible lottery) pick and more for an oft-injured, inconsistent goalie, and Tomas Vokoun misreading the free agent market and landing in Washington for a bargain price, and you’ve got a serious contender for The Summer of Madness heavyweight title.

    So I guess none of us should be too surprised to hear the Islanders are doing a little courtship dance with Alexei Yashin.
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  • Published On Jul 27, 2011
  • The Islanders’ Botta ban is pointless

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    Islanders GM Garth Snow (left) and owner Charles Wang are going to be left with an empty building if they keep alienating fans. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    There was a hat trick of bad news for the Islanders this week. First they fired coach Scott Gordon, which a number of observers took as a cosmetic step to rescue a plunging season. Then they lost their 11th straight game, their first under new coach Jack Capuano. Third, they pulled the media credential of Chris Botta, the team’s former public relations director who for the last few years has written a crucially important blog, Islanderspointblank.com

    Why is Botta’s blog so important? Because it is the best and most authoritative place to get reliable news and very reasonable views on the Islanders. It’s frequently updated and delivered by a hockey saavy guy with a long connection to the organization. It has credibility with the fans, averaging a whopping 1.5 million page views a month.

    The Islanders, you see, are not regularly covered by any of the New York newspapers except Newsday — and Newsday’s content is behind a paywall except for those who subscribe to the paper, pay to have the paywall lifted, or are customers of Cablevision, which also owns Newsday and is using its TV product to bolster the paper at a time when print media are fading as successful businesses.

    To antagonize Islanders fans even further, Cablevision also owns Madison Square Garden and the hated Rangers, so this entire situation is like pouring water on a drowning man.

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  • Published On Nov 19, 2010
  • The red light Blues

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    By Stu Hackel

    In soccer they call it an “own-goal.” In hockey, it’s called something unfit for public consumption. Last night in Detroit, Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak tried to clear the puck and inadvertently batted it into his own net, giving the Red Wings the first score of the game.

    Mickey Redmond on the Detroit telecast said “goaltenders make this move 100 times a night in the NHL,” and while that’s a slight exaggeration, it does happen — with better results — pretty regularly. In fact, the Sabres’ Ryan Miller made that exact move last night against the Capitals (sorry, can’t find video of it) in the second period, making a stop and sending the puck safely to the corner.

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  • Published On Nov 18, 2010
  • Dismal Isles need a lot more than a coaching change

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    The Islanders have fallen earlier than usual, and they aren’t likely to get up in time to make the playoffs. (Ric Tapia/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    A new, albeit interim, NHL head coach steps behind the bench tonight when Jack Capuano guides the Islanders against the Lightning at Nassau Coliseum. But no matter GM Garth Snow’s stated goal for the season, you can’t expect this young, struggling squad to be transformed into a playoff team, not in the short term.

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  • Published On Nov 17, 2010


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