"No" Isn't necessarily the End: It Could be the Best thing to happen to the Isles in a while

It's now pretty clear that Nassau County voted down the Islanders' referendum. And there is a lot of doomsaying going on. Which is just silly in my opinion: the "No" vote may be the best thing to happen to the Isles in years. It may not be: there is unquestionably far more uncertainty with the team now than with a "yes" vote - but the team had been stalled by Wang's insistence on Lighthouse project or bust - now we can see what comes after the door is officially closed.

It's admirable in some sense that Wang kept trying to keep the Isles where they were - how he was committed to Nassau County through his Lighthouse Project. And no one is saying that Kate Murray's actions were justifiable......ever. But that ship had sailed long ago.....and yet the team remained in limbo with no plan.

Why? Because Wang was so committed to his vision that he refused to look elsewhere. When options of Queens or Brooklyn were mentioned, Wang would either shut down the thought completely - I remember him saying steadfastly Brooklyn wasn't an option at one point - or basically say nothing. The reason was that his commitment to his vision blinded him to other possibilities - he had lost so much money that he was not willing to cut his costs and look elsewhere. Whether it be Willets Point, Atlantic Yards (The Barclay Center), or some other location on the Island (Queens and Brooklyn ARE PART OF LONG ISLAND PEOPLE), Wang would not think of it. The only real "thought" of moving the team came in a KC Exhibition game - which was clearly nothing more than a threat.

So what now? Well Wang is damn likely to sell the team - his vision is shot, and I don't think he wants to deal with a move. He'll sell. The question is to whom and what the buyer's intentions are. Now remember, while I don't think the NHL has as much control as say...MLB, the league does have, through Bettman, a say in who can buy and what options are available. And look what the Isles offer:

1. A team with low salary and young talent.
2. A foothold in the New York Metro Area.

#2 is Key - put it this way: When sports business people talk about where baseball should expand with a 31st team, they talk about adding a THIRD TEAM to New York. Now Hockey is not baseball - but there's no reason why the city couldn't support two hockey teams in the metro area plus the Devils.

So why couldn't they do so previously? Because Uniondale has got to be one of the oddest choices of places to stick a professional sports team. Here's a location basically only accessible by car, with VERY LITTLE ELSE TO DO IN THE VICINITY (Malls and a Marriot). Fans of the team who move to the "best" nearby area, aka New York City, particularly Manhattan, can basically NOT GET TO GAMES. Meanwhile the same fans can get to the Rangers or Devils easier than the Isles. That is utterly ridiculous.

Mass transit matters a ton. But the Isles were trying to stay in Uniondale. Admirable....but very likely unsustainable. The team would've remained unprofitable. Then what?

Well now, that situation is averted. The end result is uncertainty to be sure, but there is a lot of positive potential that could come out of this with the right buyer and the right vision.

Note: I also wanna address the vitriol coming toward several Islander bloggers/commenters/fans toward the voters and those saying that the county didn't deserve the team. Voting for a tax increase is something that is hard for many to do, even if there is a good case that a "NO" vote will result in a bigger tax increase in the long term. Moreover, a lot of Isles fans....WERENT ELIGIBLE TO VOTE AS THEY DONT LIVE IN NASSAU COUNTY. The low turnout was a designed thing - Monday August 1st for a vote? - and not a lack of enthusiasm. All in all, voters are voters. They vote for what they think is their own best interest. And here this wasn't a vote against the Isles, this was a vote against spending their own money on the team. Remember this is county who regularly votes down tax increases for their public schools - you think they want to fund a private hockey team? The voters who weren't clear Isles fans were always going to outnumber the other group.


The key from here on is to listen to Gary Bettman's statements - will he treat the Isles like Phoenix, as a team he's committed to not moving no matter what? I suspect, as you might have guessed, that the answer is yes. Watch out for those who express interest in the team and Bettman's response. We could know where we're heading sooner than you'd think. And the result may just be the best for all.

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