It's every Sound Tigers' goal to get the call to play at Nassau Coliseum. If Bruce Ratner gets his way, they might get that call without actually leaving the AHL.
It's long been speculated that if Ratner's group won the Coliseum redevelopment bid, the minor sports tenant he would bring to the "hub" of Nassau County would be the Islanders' AHL affiliate, which has been in Bridgeport since its founding in 2001.
Today Ratner said as much -- provided a lease can be worked out with the Coliseum and the Sound Tigers owner, who is Islanders owner Charles Wang.
However Michael Fornabaio, who covers the Sound Tigers for the Connecticut Post and just yesterday had the Sound Tigers on record about staying in Bridgeport, re-iterated this quote from Sound Tigers exec Howard Saffan:
Saffan: "We absolutely do not have any arrangement in place (re: Sound TIgers to NVMC). Our owner has not executed any agreement"— Michael Fornabaio (@fornabaioctp) August 16, 2013
That is literally true but also carefully stated. As Fornabaio put it: "Not that leases ever slow gossip in the AHL."
UPDATE: Islanders Point Blank has a statement from the Sound Tigers that reads in part:
...The Sound Tigers have an agreement to play in Webster Bank Arena until then and plan on doing so until we hear otherwise from our owner...
This makes a lot of sense, because even if their intent is to move to Long Island, they won't want to utter anything that would affect negotiations (legally or within leverage battles) over their lease or over getting another team to fulfill that lease.
UPDATE 2 - Here's some Ratner video:
**END OF UPDATE, Back to original post**
Lot of moving parts here, including...
... the third wheel in this, which also has long been read via the tea leaves: The Rangers organization. The Wang-controlled entity that signed the lease in Bridgeport just needs to ensure a pro hockey team there; the Rangers, who own the Hartford Wolfpack and might fancy a move (and also, whose corporate parent bid on the Coliseum), have a short-term lease at Hartford's XL Center.
Another long-speculated aspect of the redevelopment was quashed, at least for now. Ratner said he expects the Islanders to remain in the Coliseum through 2015 -- not leaving a year early -- and renovation would happen as soon as the 2014-15 season is over. (Which, of course, he expects to be mid-June since the Islanders will be in the Cup finals then.)
Other notes from today's presser, which was streamed live at the official site and included Islanders winger Matt Martin and Brooklyn Nets coach
Trevor Jason Kidd:
- The site will include a memorial/monument to Nassau County's veterans. Ratner: "From the very first day, that was very important. We will get that done." The Coliseum has always been Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, so obviously people will want some kind of tribute to continue even if the naming rights go to the highest banker/tech company/other corporate johnny-come-lately.
- As announced in his proposal, there will be an amphitheater
- Also: a plaza and retail area, "with same kind of resonance the Coliseum will have."
- On the design of the arena: "If you look at other things we've done, you'll find the [architect's rendering] is what the building will actually look like."
- Ratner on lessons from Barclays: Six percent of attendees to Nets games come from Nassau County. 10 percent of attendees to its concerts come from Nassau. "So we've discovered it's a different demographic" and there is a need for a concert venue here.
That last point obviously hints at implications for the Islanders, and their desire to keep cultivating Isles fans in Nassau with as many as six games per year at the new Coliseum: There is a segment of the existing fanbase that will not want or cannot conveniently make a regular commute to Brooklyn for games. This also lends support to why Barclays people, beyond regular business due diligence, are probing ways to cultivate a new Brooklyn-area fanbase.
Anyway, still nothing official yet -- including full County legislature approval of the choice of Ratner's group -- but the pieces are starting to fall into place in terms of what Ratner's intentions are, and -- if he gets them -- where players in the Islanders system will be playing their pro and minor-league games beyond 2015.