OK so the the title of this post is stolen from the Chappelle Show (and if you do not know what the Chappelle Show is I suggest you YouTube some clips because it's such a funny show), but it is time for us to keep it real with what is really going on with the Islanders and what the future holds. It's time to put delusions aside and look at reality.
No new arena will EVER be built in Nassau County
The LHP didn't happen. It was NEVER going to happen. The Islanders have been trying get a new arena for at least 20 years and have been blocked by the political machines of LI. 20 years people. That is a long time. What made people think this was going to be any different? From the start of the whole LHP process, the Town government acted like it didn't even have a chance of getting done. Everything they said, didn't say and everything they did showed they never wanted this to happen. But we all believed, for some unknown reason, that it was going to be different this time. THIS time the Town was going to give in.
Charles Wang wants to devalue the franchise
This is one that needs to be explained a little. Why would any owner want to devalue their business? Once Wang realized that the LHP was not going to get done, he knew that he had to sell the team. There are no magical arena's that are going to be built in Queens or Brooklyn for the Islanders. The new Brooklyn arena is not being built to accommodate hockey. If Wang wanted to get with the Nets about 5 years ago and jointly build the arena in Brooklyn, then that would have been an option. But that ship has sailed. Brooklyn isn't happening. An arena in Queens is about 7 years, at least, from being done. Everything that Wang went through with the LHP; all the reviews, meetings, environmental studies, not to mention the lawsuits from the businesses in the Willet's Point area that would be kicked out if the arena was built; all of that would have to happen again in Queens. Wang is NOT going through this whole process again. Suffolk County is, quite frankly, not an option. There is no way Wang stays on LI and moves further away from NYC. It would be ill conceived and would not work financially.
Wang has become resigned to the fact that he cannot make this franchise work on LI. And Wang's biggest problem is that everyone knows this. He cannot sell this team in it's current state. So what's the best way for Wang to dump the team? Devalue it to the point that someone with enough money will take it off his hands for him.
Tom Souzzi, the former County Executive, amended the current lease the Islanders have with SMG to make it more Islander-friendly. At the time, everyone was saying and writing what a great thing this was. But I always knew that it really did not change anything. The Islanders are never going to make money in that arena, no matter what the lease is. Wang knew this and saw this as an opportunity. It has been widely reported and confirmed that Wang loses about $20 million a year on this team. With the new lease, Wang has just accepted he will never make money with this team and will try lose as little money as possible. So what did he do? He raised ticket prices and parking prices. He gutted the front office. He fired Jankowski, Trottier, his son in law Chris Dey and who knows who else lost their jobs. Raising revenues and lowering expenses. Selling a business 101. We could talk all day about the payroll of this team. But that one I think pretty much speaks for itself.
But there is another part to devaluing this franchise. Alienating what is left of the fan base. Wang has done an excellent job of this. The raising of the ticket prices was a stroke of genius on his part. He killed two birds with one stone. With him getting a larger portion of the ticket sales because of the amended lease and the higher ticket prices, he is making more money on ticket sales this year then last year, even though the attendance is way down.
But why does he need to alienate the fan base? because.....
When the lease is up in 2015, the New York Islanders will no longer be the New York Islanders
The team will not be playing on LI or in the New York area after their lease it up. There is no other person that will buy this team and keep it there. Wang knows this. But he does love LI and does not want to be known as the Walter O'Malley of this generation. He believes that if he keeps running the franchise the way it is currently being ran, then by the time 2015 comes around, there will be no one left who cares about the team, and when they inevitably move to Canada, KC, Vegas, or wherever, he will not be seen as the villain. He can say that no one was coming to the games and that it was impossible for him to make money on LI. I have said it before and I will say it again: If the Dodgers can leave Brooklyn, the Islanders can leave Long Island.
Now I know a lot of people will say I am wrong. But I'm not. I am as big an Islanders fan as there is, but I can also see what is staring me in the face. Charles Wang never wanted it this way. When he bought the team 10 years ago, he wanted to be the savior. Did he make mistakes along the way? Yes. But in the end, the politics of LI was the ultimate undoing of this franchise. In hindsight, Wang should have realized sooner that he was not going to get the LHP done and should have teamed up with the Nets with the Brooklyn arena. But hindsight is 20/20. He did what he felt was best for the franchise and what was best for LI. But it didn't work. He was the last owner that would keep this team on LI. He had to be begged to buy the team because no one else would touch it. He incurred huge loses for 10 years now. $200 million he has lost since he bought this team. $200 million. He did his part to keep the Islanders on LI. Maybe some miracle happens in the next couple years and a new arena ends up being built and keeps the team on LI. But that's what it would be. A miracle. It's a harsh reality to accept, but this is where we are with this franchise. They were once the model of winning in the NHL. Everyone wanted to do things the "Islanders way". There are not many franchises in any sport that can say they had the highs that this franchise had in the late 70's and the early 80's. There are also not many franchises that have had the same lows. But I will choose to remember the highs and will continue to root for this franchise wherever they end up playing after 2015.