Long Island resident Charles Wang purchased the New York Islanders in April of 2000. Ever since that day, he has steadfastly refused to play political hardball. Since he doesn’t, the plight of the Islanders never gets enough attention, while the owner of the Islanders never gets any credit for his willingness to be patient while working with community leaders.
More than eight years after Wang saved the Islanders, there remains no set date for a groundbreaking ceremony on the transformation of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum property. More than eight years after Wang purchased the team, he has never spoken or leaked through a spokesperson something like:
“If a deal for the Lighthouse Project does not get done soon, it’s the last thing we want to do but the Islanders are left with no alternatives but to start looking elsewhere.”
But Wang won’t do it. Pro sports team owners have been talking this way for the last 20 years, and most of them never came close to absorbing the deep financial losses Wang has over the last decade. To insiders around pro sports, it’s stunning that Wang so far has refused to go public with even the slightest of veiled threats.
Let there be no doubt: this “strategy” has been recommended to him more than a few times over the last eight years. Also this: when I write that he “saved” the franchise, it is rooted in fact. No one else – at least not anyone with actual money to actually own the team – was lining up to buy the Islanders and inherit their significant real estate problems and strangling arena lease. If Wang didn’t buy the team, the New York Islanders would not be around in 2008.
So why does Wang refuse to play the card? That’s a question I asked a few times over the last 4-5 years of my time in the organization. Looked at professionally, cynically and finally with wide-eyed wonder, I’ve come to the conclusion that the answer is simple:
The man, who founded a technology empire on Long Island, raises his family here, has lived here for more than 50 years and bought the NHL team because he was told by powerful politicians it was vital for Long Island, does not even want to think about the alternative.
If I’m right – and I’ve never come across evidence to the contrary – good for him.
But now what? When does his patience officially run out? In an interview on WFAN in March 6, Wang did not hide his frustration when the subject of the Coliseum development was raised. I’ve heard from some readers via email that have bumped into Charles at Iceworks or in other public settings, and he made it clear to them that something needed to be done soon.
If he hasn’t publicly played the relocation card yet, you have to wonder if he ever will. It’s clear he loves Long Island and would be sick over the notion of ever having to hold it hostage.
Unless the plans of Wang and Scott Rechler receive the green light from the Town of Hempstead some time in the next six months, nobody can blame the Islanders owner for whatever he decides to do next.
ETC: In news from Greg Logan in Atlanta, Joey MacDonald starts tonight against the Thrashers. Sean Bergenheim will be held back until Saturday. Thanks to Greg for his plug of Point Blank Night and his rave for Gabrielle’s.
For those of you able to make it to Point Blank Night, I’ll see you in a bit. Please place your game predix and reactions to the above article in