NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Associated Press sports editors on Friday that Brooklyn may not be a viable relocation site for the New York Islanders — but not because its arena is too poorly laid out for hockey. Rather, Bettman worried, in the AP’s words, that the Barclays Center arena would be “hard to reach for the team’s fan base in Long Island and Queens.”
This is weird on several counts, not least of which is that the Barclays Center sits right on top of a rail hub, with not only nine subway lines but a Long Island Rail Road terminal, trains from which go to, you guessed it, Long Island. There’s even a station two blocks away for the G train, the only subway in the city that goes straight from Queens to Brooklyn without sullying its wheels in Manhattan.
The stranger thing, though, is that Bettman would worry about alienating fans at all — when was the last time you heard a commissioner do that when there’s a potentially lucrative new fan base at stake? And it’s especially odd to do so when Islanders owner Charles Wang could be using the Brooklyn threat to shake down Nassau County for approval of a new arena there, something that now becomes more difficult.
One (completely speculative) possibility is that Bettman is quieting the Brooklyn talk to assuage the owners of the Rangers, who already were paid by the Islanders to share territorial rights to the outer boroughs, but who still wouldn’t be too happy about having to share the city with them. Maybe Cablevision threatened that the Islanders would never get another page of coverage in Newsday unless they agreed not to move to Brooklyn? What, you have a better explanation?