Ghost Story Come True — Could Pat LaFontaine Buy the Islanders?

Kevin Schultz

Every town has it’s ghost stories, I’m sure you remember the one from the town where you grew up. Maybe your town had the one about a certain bridge that high school kids drove to, turned off their car lights, and saw a shadowy figure. Or maybe your town believed the one about the house on the hill, whose lights would turn on only after dark. The Islanders have their own such ghost stories, and one of the most prominent involves Pat LaFontaine buying the team.

LaFontaine’s a former Islander and NHL star, so he’s never had the money to buy a team by himself — barring some lottery windfall. But he’s forever been rumored to be putting together a group of investors with which to buy the team from current owner Charles Wang. The LaFontaine ownership story has been on message boards and blogs many times over the years, and with all due respect to those places and people, it never really had legs from serious mainstream sources.

Today, the LaFontaine ghost story just got a very serious mainstream source. Via Larry Brooks and Josh Kosman at the New York Post:

Pat LaFontaine has been contacted by some European investors about the possibility of buying the money-losing team and keeping it on Long Island, The Post has learned.

LaFontaine, who starred for the Islanders for eight seasons and is in the top six in goals and points in team history, is intrigued by the opportunity and may look to put together some sort of bid, sources said.

Unfortunately for LaFontaine, who still lives on Long Island and is active in charities there, that price is said to be a sky-high $300 million.

Wha-What? A group of shadowy European investors looking to grab a forlorn Long Island franchise with the intention of keeping them on Long Island? That sounds too much like a ghost story to me to be true. Brooks doesn’t have any names but it’s certainly one heck of a story. He continues:

The LaFontaine-centered effort will look to keep it in Nassau. That may be difficult without an arena.

There has been plenty of chatter that the Islanders could, beginning in the 2015-16 season, move to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Such a move would have to overcome some obvious hurdles — not the least of which is that Barclays seats only 14,500 for hockey, which would make it the smallest NHL rink.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again until I’m blue in the face, it’s simply a matter of charging more per ticket. A 14,500 seat shiny new arena with a winning team isn’t going to be a problem. Getting a winning team, is. But I digress.

So Brooks has layed out a scenario of LaFontaine and his group being able to make an offer on the team, but not having the wherewithal to keep the team on Long Island by themselves. And now, the story starts to read like a fan fiction version of a Charles Dickens with all the ghosts of Islander teams past:

At the same time, former Islander greats Bob Nystrom and Denis Potvin are advising one Long Island developer on a plan to keep the team right where it is.

The two are working with Ed Blumenfeld, one of three finalists to become “master developer” of the Coliseum site, which would include a new arena.

Blumenfeld’s goal is either to persuade Wang to stay in the area and use the new arena or, if Wang moves the team out of the area, to persuade another owner to move a team to Nassau County.

The developer is interested, according to sources, in buying a hockey team but he does not want to buy the Islanders for $300 million.

So we’ve got a developer who wants a team for a (possible but not yet built) new arena and an ex-player with a group of investors who want a team (but doesn’t have said team and needs a building). This sounds all too good to be true, but if it’s coming from Brooks, it can’t all be hocus pocus. Stay tuned, because one of Long Island’s ghost stories just got sourced by a mainstream writer.