After 12 years of picturing something better, Wang finally left the parking lot behind. - Bruce Bennett
If you could write a lockout letter to your favorite NHL team's owner, what would it be?
On the occasion of the very curious Bettman- and Fehr-less (well, one Fehr) CBA meeting between NHL players and owners today, many SB Nation hockey sites are penning letters to their owners.
Personally, I see this meeting as a silly gambit -- at best, a way for the owners to show the players, "See, we're all this crazy -- it's not just your bogeyman Bettman." The owners' last serious threat to the players before they either say, "Okay, we've clawed back enough, let's have a season," or "We're so crazy we'll cancel another season."
But this network-wide assignment does bring up an interesting question: If you could speak to New York Islanders owner Charles Wang about the lockout, what would you tell him?
For me, I'm almost helpless to know what to say. I have no idea where he stands on this lockout. He's a successful, some would say Machiavellian, businessman, but he's also a guy who values loyalty and a "family" cohesion within the franchise. He will give you a 15-year deal if you show your commitment to the cause, but if you hold out past the start of training camp, you can Bergenheim yourself back to Europe for all he cares.
I know Wang has lost a lot of money on hockey. I know he's also stuck with it -- in a sport that was foreign to him when he bought in -- much longer than most other new-wave NHL owners did.
If the lockout is about spreading the costs so that more than just the six or seven mega-million teams can make money, I'd think Wang would support it. (On the other hand, I'd also think he's support increased revenue sharing.) Likewise, if it's about billionaire hobbyists telling players, "Hey, I know going in that this isn't a big moneymaker for me, but if you think I'll subsidize losses year after year just so you make $3.5 million instead of $2.5 million, then good luck finding an NHL paycheck this year."
On the other hand, Wang didn't hesitate to give Alexei Yashin 10 years or Rick DiPietro $67.5 million over 15.
I just don't know. Forbes' flawed data is the best we have as far as a clear financial picture of this league goes. The NHL's sinister and clever gag rule ensures we never really know which owners think what. Wang's name never comes up in CBA talk, and his unconventional history makes me think he's not in the cool club inner circle of owners.
I know that Wang is on good terms with Rangers owner and Islanders' rights holder Cablevision's Charles Dolan (maybe it's a Chuck thing), who apparently dislikes Bettman so much he tried to get him fired a few years ago. I also know that Bettman worked to make sure the New York area didn't lose the Islanders, who were ostensibly his favorite hockey team growing up.
So I don't know what to think.
I know that if an owner seriously objects to the course of this lockout, he could speak up. But I also know Bettman has consolidated decision-making by requiring just 8 of 30 votes for him to stay the course.
I know that despite all Wang tried -- and spent -- to keep the Islanders in Nassau, his fallback plan should be a serious revenue boost in Brooklyn, which might recoup some of his losses in the first 15 years owning the team.
Which brings me to the title of this non-letter. Throughout the whole Nassau Coliseum saga, from RFP's to Lighthouse Project to referendum to Kate Murray's "really, someone should develop this place," I've had one line from one classic comedy ringing in the back of my head (because guys, we tend to communicate in movie quotes).
When I look at the expanse of asphalt around the Coliseum and the vast potential that has lay untapped for years after years, I hear Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack: "Hey Wang*, it's a parking lot. Come on, will ya?"
Yeah, it's a non sequitur. But it makes about as much sense as carrying a lockout into December.
*For the pedantic: They're using the stereotype of the Japanese tourist who takes pictures of everything, but "Wang" is really a Chinese name (as is the Islanders owner), and the name is properly pronounced like "Wahng" with a short "a" sound. But anything for comedy, especially Caddyshack.