UPDATED at 5:00 pm: Three hours after the following story was posted, Newsday received reaction from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly about those reports from Canada of the Islanders’ financial turmoil. Emailed Daly: “Totally and categorially untrue.” Larry Brooks of the Post also followed up.
1:00 pm: Yesterday it was a national magazine. Today it was a veteran hockey writer, someone super-connected at league levels. This has been going on since the start of the playoffs.
On the phone, in Washington, Detroit and Montreal, on radio shows, on the plane to Pittsburgh…the questions are coming from everywhere.
“What can you tell us about the whispers Charles Wang is fed up with carrying the Islanders”?
“What do you know about the NHL supposedly taking over the franchise, like it did in Phoenix”?
“What do you hear about the Islanders moving”?
Dave Shoalts of the Globe and Mail had a story two weeks implying financial ruin and possible re-location for the Islanders. The reverberations from that one have not ceased. Stephen Brunt, a bit recklessly in my opinion, wrote yesterday that the Islanders are immediately available to move to Canada.
The most ominous words from my inquisitors – just about all of them legit media players in this sport – are this:
“I can’t get anyone in the league to deny it.”
The concern in Islanders Country can be illustrated by an email I received yesterday from reader Marc Leger. Marc is a good man from Quebec who works in the sports business and worships the New York Islanders. Here’s what he wrote when he heard I would be in Montreal this week:
I have a question for you, as you are in Canada for Game 6. You may start hearing these rumours as well. Over the past two weeks, I keep hearing from certain sport shows out of Toronto that are very respected in North America (Prime Time Sports with Bob McCowan) that there is serious trouble out of Long Island in regards to Wang owning the team.
The show (made up of reporters such as Stephen Brunt and Jim Kelley and others) is stating that there is a very distinct possibility that the NHL is now in control of the Isles and that Wang has washed his hands of the team. They keep stating that they cannot get anyone to deny this from an NHL office perspective.
Have you heard similar rumours? I know that rumours are rumours, but sadly more often than not, where there is smoke, there is a little fire brewing…
So here is my reaction:
Charles Wang is undoubtedly fed up with his investment in the Islanders, the National Hockey League and Nassau County. However, I have not heard even the slightest bit of real information that he has told the NHL that he’s through with the franchise or has asked the league to take over.
If you’re Wang, you have to love every time a story this severe gets out. I’ve believed for a long time that the Islanders will only get saved when the situation is at its most dire. Like the Islanders having one foot out of Nassau County.
From everything I’ve heard, Wang and his business partner Scott Rechler will wait to see what Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead consultants bring back on the Lighthouse Project. They will also sit back while Ed Mangano and Nassau County consider alternatives for the Coliseum property, like the Shinnecock casino.
As the lease states, the Islanders will be playing in their current building until at least 2015.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that NHL teams must spend to the salary cap floor. Despite the financial pains, the Islanders will sign their top prospects and nothing should get in the way of fielding a postseason-competitive team next season and beyond. Garth Snow and Ryan Jankowski have proceeded with business as usual.
Gary Bettman has no interest whatsoever in seeing the Islanders, coincidentally the team he rooted for, going to Winnipeg or Quebec City or Kansas City or anywhere outside of New York.
As for Wang and the Islanders working with the Wilpons and the Mets to present a two-headed, New York sports power (with public transportation and increased press coverage!)…well, golly gee – that’s always made too much sense.
I love my media brethren in Canada. They write with an unmatched passion for the sport and break countless stories. It should be noted that they have been consistently accurate in their reportage on the plight of the Phoenix Coyotes.
In the end, I will continue to believe that Charles Wang is too emotionally invested in the hockey team to sell it off to the highest bidder and a place far, far away from here. If you don’t know want I mean, look at the picture at the end this story. Wang sits at the head of the draft table in the first round, for heaven’s sake. It’s rare when you find any of the other 29 team’s owners anywhere in the building. This little hockey acquisition has become a huge part of his life, whether he admits it or not.
My advice would be to enjoy the summer, the draft, the UFA period, your families and friends and stay cool. Until the day Bettman or Wang go public with a meaningful public comment declaring otherwise, the New York Islanders should still be around for a while.