An NHL event means a Gary Bettman State of the League Address and a Gary Bettman State of the League Address means questions about the Islanders and their arena issues. The tradition started around 1996 or so and continues today, including Saturday’s media availability at the All Star Game in Los Angeles.
In addressing concerns about Barclays Center’s longterm viability, Bettman instead focused on the team owners’ stewardship and left the future vague.
“They’re committed to the franchise, they’re committed to New York and the great fan base that has followed the Islanders,” Bettman said, referring to Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky, who are in their first season as principal owners after having completed the sale from Charles Wang.
Yeah, that’s great and all Gar, but what about the stuff everyone complains about, like the ice?
“There are some issues about playing in Barclays, it may be fundamental to the ice system and that’s not something that can be fixed in the short term,” the commissioner said. “I think as is prudent, Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky are reviewing the situation and looking very seriously at what their options are.”
“Looking very seriously at their options,” is a very non-committal response. Options could mean a move to yet another arena that currently doesn’t exist or renovating Barclays Center into something more suitable. There’s an infinitesimal chance it could mean a move back to Nassau Coliseum, which Bettman told Stan Fischler last month wasn’t an option without a brand new building. After arguing with the Town of Hempstead and the county for 20 years, it’s unlikely Bettman wants to re-open old cases. Sorry, Senator Whoever.
So it’s more of the same. Barclays Center is the Islanders home until further notice, and the parties will address an opt-out clause by next January. That won’t stop people from asking or reading the between the lines or hearing what they hear. But unless a new venue is built - and is as lucrative to the team as their annual $53 million payout from Barclays is or better - keep that MetroCard filled.