Chris Botta at ESPN New York
1:50 pm, Village of Rockville Centre, Town of Hempstead, Nassau County: No doubt there is fine print in our Constitution outlawing the presence of hockey players from Austria, Switzerland, Canada and even Massachusetts near election booths in Nassau County, but surely the Islanders can get creative.
No one will mind if the Islanders do not focus on any other charitable or community appearances over the next 80 days. Until Aug. 1, there is no bigger community initiative than keeping the Islanders in Nassau County.
So line up those party buses in every town on Islanders Election Day Monday. Make it easy (and fun!) for every Nassau resident who cares about the team or the property to have a ride to the polls. Make sure Grabs, Streiter, JT, Moulson and every other current player that the supporters care about is in the Country. Line up the illustrious alumni – not just the dynasty but some of the popular ’93 guys, to reach that demographic – whether they live in New York or not, whether they enjoy a loving relationship with current management or not. Make amends. There is too much at stake. There is not a single former Islander on the planet who wants to see the team move. They’ll do anything to help. All you have to do is ask.
Of course, the battle for a new Coliseum is not just about the Islanders. If Edward Mangano can ever get his act together – “if it can be done, it will be done,” the County Exec embarrassed himself by telling Islanders-friendly Newsday when pushed for more concrete financial details – the burden is on him to articulate the true effect on taxes. A new Coliseum would host 41 regular season Islanders games plus playoffs, so naturally the project leaders will want to explain how this could be your last chance in Nassau to see Bon Jovi, Jay Z, Lady Gaga, the E Street Band, Metallica and all the musical artists you care about. Since he doesn’t get asked tough questions at faux press conferences, Charles Wang might want to explain how a team that is going to lose another $80 million or so over the next four years is ever going to be in shape to meet their obligation with the bond.
But the Islanders need to control what they can control. And they better not waste a single day between now and Aug. 1 taking anything or anyone for granted. If it takes a couple million dollars to make sure an Islanders famous face, the logo, the word YES and Aug. 1 can be seen prominently on every corner in every village for two months, you do it.
If it means lining up interviews between management and players with every small newspaper and every AOL Patch micro-site in Nassau, you do it.
If it means forming a committee of Islanders and Coliseum supporters to get out the vote – non-Nassau residents can be involved, as can men, women and children of all ages – you do it.
After all the cake Wang has lost on the Islanders and the Lighthouse, what’s a few million bucks when you’re talking about a $400 million prize?
As I wrote at ESPN on Wednesday, if the vote happens on Aug. 1, the Islanders and Mangano should be heavy favorites. The press conference/rally was barely over, and my story was published, when I already had regrets that I didn’t put if in italics. The party wasn’t even broken up when the push-back began in a big way.
It would have been one thing for the Nassau Interim Finance Committee to privately sulk about Mangano’s decision to not communicate with them about his little $400 million idea, but no. NIFA went big. By noon on Wednesday, the New York State agency that controls Nassau’s purse was returning phone calls from every writer and blogger. And, in some cases, NIFA didn’t even wait for the call. They were pro-active in getting their message across. That tells you everything you need to know about how pissed they were.
By now you know the gist of NIFA’s statement: “We’re deeply concerned about the county executive’s proposal and its fiscal implications for the county.” But did you seee this beauty from George Marlin of NIFA to Long Island Business News? “It’s an absolute waste of money,” Marlin said of the Wangano Plan.
So, as we learned officially in record time, even if the vote actually happens on Aug. 1, there’s going to be opposition. Again, this is still the Islanders’ title to lose. They have the deck stacked in their favor. The Aug. 1 date, a Monday during our cherished Long Island summer, was a stroke of evil genius. The Islanders have the people – including some stars of past and future – and the resources (cash and staff). The opposition does not. This is not the battle over the Lighthouse Project, easy pickins for the NIMBY crowd. They also do not want to rely on Mangano, a good man and businessman, but a politician incapable of taking over a room and making his point like…well, even Tom Suozzi. And where did that get the Lighthouse?
Above all else, the Islanders have fanatics. Ten of thousands of fans. (A tip: with a glance at the demographics of this blog, I would strongly recommend the Islanders show some love to the 18-24 crowd. You young men and women can give up a day at the beach, or work, right?)
The Islanders have fans eager to get to the polls on the First Monday in August and take a stand for their team. A little inspiration and gratitude from the team would put them over the top.
Islanders fans have been through a lot, and many have you have given a lot of your time and income to your favorite hockey club. But to those of you who care – and heck, if you’re reading this crappy blog in mid-May you obviously care – this is not the time to sit back and wait for the next setback. If you’re okay with the $400 million bond so Wang and your team can have a new building, t’s not the time to think it’s going to come down to another round of Town Halls or, ugh, zoning hearings.
Ask not what your Country can do for you, but what you can do for your Country.
Chris Botta at ESPN New York