On April 26, 2000 the Islanders hosted a press conference to announce the latest in a series of new ownerships – although this time you had the sense this would be the final one. I was asked to arrive at a conference room on the penthouse level of the Garden City Hotel at 9:00 am. My task was to take new Islanders owner Charles Wang through the choreography of the day’s events.
I knocked on the door at 8:59:59 am. I was past 30 years of age by then and had experienced enough in the game to be prepared for just about anything. Still, when Charles opened the door and tried his best to make me feel comfortable, I felt like a kid on the first day of school.
Part of that had to do with Wang’s guests in the room when I arrived. There was Tom Gulotta, then the Nassau County Executive. Taking most of the air out of the room was Al D’Amato, who had recently completed an 18-year tenure as United States Senator for the State of New York. It was D’Amato who asked – actually, begged – Wang to save the Islanders because New York and Long Island needed the historic franchise to remain. D’Amato and Gulotta also told Wang it was only a matter of time before the Coliseum property was developed.
Only a matter of time.
I think back on that day, and the press conference and cocktail party with Governor George Pataki and a cast of thousands, and I cannot believe the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and surrounding acreage of asphalt remain the same. As a resident of Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead – and everything wonderful and horrible that comes with it – I’m embarrassed.
Nine years later, and there hasn’t even been a photo op with hard hats and shovels.
What’s different about April of 2009? Actually, something monumental. For better or worse, we are finally at the end of this horror story. Wang and Scott Rechler will know by the start of the Islanders’ 2009-10 NHL season in October if they have a deal with Nassau and Hempstead. If they don’t, consider them very unrestricted free agents.
I have made no secret of whose side I’m on. I am pro-Lighthouse Project because I believe it’s good for New York, the Island, Nassau and the Islanders. I also want what the fans want. I grew up with this team, too. Twice: once as a child and all over again as an adult.
The Islanders have home games on Wednesday and Saturday, but by far the most important Islanders event of the week – make that the decade – is Thursday at the Marriott. I believe that by the end of the night, everyone there will understand what’s going on, and what’s at stake.
At this juncture, knowing the options, I think I’d sign up for Queens.
Respectful, constructive Comments about the arena issue are encouraged. Guidelines. Hockey talk, including TB-Columbus if you’re inclined, in next thread.