Teams gathered for their first World Cup of Hockey practices this weekend and Islanders training camp starts in about two weeks. Thank God. Because it means we can soon start talking more about on-ice performances than legal documents and development rights.
But then again, these are the Islanders we’re talking about: team whose home situation over the last few decades has been almost as tenuous as living on the San Andreas fault.
The latest log to throw in the eternal hot stove of relocation rumors is a report from Newsday’s Jim Baumbach that breaks down rather clearly how the much-discussed opt-out clause between the team and Barclays Center works, including who can opt-out and when. The report is based on information from a document outlining Barclays Center’s refinancing plan, which helped already super rich dude owner Mikhail Prokhorov save $90 million bucks thanks to lower interest rates.
To make a long but important story short, the earliest the Islanders can leave Brooklyn would be after their third season in the borough. But first, both parties would enter extension negotiations starting after this coming season and ending on January 1st, 2018. Even then, only if talks fell apart in a serious way would breaking up become an option.
The summary outlines the process involved in triggering the opt-out. After the Islanders finish their second season in Brooklyn, the two sides have until Jan. 1, 2018, to renegotiate the terms of the current deal. If no new deal is reached, the two sides can stay with the current deal or choose to opt out. Each side would have until Jan. 30, 2018, to deliver an opt-out notice in writing.
If the Islanders decide to opt out, the team can choose to leave at the end of either its third or fourth season. If Barclays triggers the opt-out, the Islanders would have to leave after the fourth season. The team just completed its first season in Brooklyn in May.
The full agreement was also posted to Newsday’s site.
Baumbach also includes other details about the agreement, including the Nets getting preferential scheduling treatment, the mythical six games at the still-not-yet-finished Nassau Coliseum and exactly who gets what money and how much in the unusual agreement between Barclays Center and the Islanders.
The $53 million payout from the arena folks increases by 1.5 percent every season and the team receives additional funds from playoff games, post-season advertising and revenue generated over that $53 million threshold. The Islanders also helped raise the arena’s overall revenue in their first season in Brooklyn.
But the deal isn’t considered a good long term plan for the team, according to a few sources quoted in the article.
“Charles Wang wanted to keep his options open, but at the same time he wanted to have the best short-term plan that he could, and Bruce Ratner wanted to have another tenant for another 45-plus dates a year,” said Andrew Zimbalist, sports economics professor at Smith College. “That’s the way in which the sides came together, and that’s why the deal is fragile for the longer term.”
When the move to Brooklyn was first announced, Wang described the deal as “iron clad.” Seems more like “iron clad with a chance to melt and re-cast starting two years later.”
Both team and arena spokespeople declined to comment and NHL deputy commish Bill Daly basically says, “Yeah, we know about the deal and nothing has changed.”
Start the Clock
So what does this mean for us, Joe or Jane Q. Hockey Fan, that just wants to stop dealing with this madness and get down to the business of (we hope) winning hockey games deep into next Spring? It means we can add January, 2018 to our list of dates to worry about and that we can start (or continue) over-analyzing all Islanders-Barclays Center interactions and their eventual impact on the contract extension meetings leading up to that date.
Even if both parties come to an agreement, or simply punt to a later date and continue the current deal, it seems the questions and uncertainty simply aren’t going away any time soon. That despite the fact that, as of right now, there are exactly zero other places in New York for a Long Island-based NHL team to play. A renovated 13,000-seat Coliseum in a county that doesn’t play well with others isn’t an option. And arenas in Willets Point and Belmont Park don’t exist yet and might not ever.
In other words, all systems are normal right now. But now you know. And knowing is half the battle.