NHL commish: Brooklyn not good fit for Islanders, too far from Queens

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?

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18 comments on “NHL commish: Brooklyn not good fit for Islanders, too far from Queens

  1. It would be crazy to play hockey in that arena on a regular basis given its layout. WHy they didn’t build it for hockey is big ? maybe they had to grease the skids to get approval and not making the rangers mad was part of the deal. As for the islanders, new arena or move from LI. Guess they would need to change their name if they left long Island. Hello hartford or canada. Or how about this mayor kevin johnson to lose the kings but land the islanders? doubt it but wouldn’t be shocked if the kings look at new jersey since the nets are leaving.

  2. The Dolan’s want out of paying the Isles cable contract which saves them hundreds of millions until 2030. Dolan wants to expand his Ranger brand into Long Island, perhaps getting control of the Coliseum for his failing AHL franchise at the very least and maybe getting control of the building Charles Dolan wanted to gain control of in 1990 by outright purchasing the Isles.

    Plus they want to double and triple Dolan’s coverage of Dolan’s team in Dolan’s owned paper, which is why this is front page in Dolan’s paper but Isles (and Devils) games are hidden to drive down any ratings in the franchise along with game coverage.

    As for Bettman, Msg (and New Jersey) has been packed with Islander fans, a franchise as much NYC as the Yankees.

    Dolan (and the city media) did all they could to defeat the referendum even lying that the Yankees and Mets paid for their own stadiums and the Wang should pay also.

  3. I’ve been saying for a bit that I think the Islanders could be the darkhorse franchise for Seattle. Seems crazy with a storied franchise like the Islanders but as time goes in this seems less and less crazy. It just doesn’t seem like there is much of a plan for an arena and anyone that has been there knows that they won’t play there for long. Forbes has them at one of the lowest valued teams in the league ~150M.

  4. Pretty much everything in NYIFC’s comment is false.

    MSG didn’t buy the Islanders broadcast rights because they had to, they did so because they wanted to. The network needs the programming.

    Plus, the Rangers themselves supported the Vote Yes campaign, and Newsday ran a supporting editorial the day before the vote.

    The Rangers almost certainly do not want the Islanders in Brooklyn or Queens, but I don’t think they’re rooting for them to leave Long Island either.

  5. Sloppy reporting by the AP. See Newsday’s more in-depth report on the same conversation. What Bettman actually said was this: “Barclays, I suppose, on some level, is an option,” Bettman said. “But I’m not sure how effective it can serve the fan base that principally is in Nassau, Suffolk and Queens. It’s not that easy to get to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. So it’s not anything that’s been focused on, other than the Islanders are going to play a preseason game there.” Very different meaning. Also, the Dolan angle doesn’t make sense. They would be worse off if Queens were the landing spot as it would still be a second team inside NYC proper, plus add a third full-fledged arena for competition for other events.

  6. What’s better than making money off of TWO NHL teams? Making money off of THREE NHL teams. The idea that Dolan wants the Isles out is laughable. Three teams= three times the chances of hosting playoff and maybe Stanley Cup Finals games.

    Three teams is three times the number of games to sell ads for.

    The only thing Dolan wants is for all three teams to be competitive. Rivalries make MONEY and Dolan makes money on ticket sales AND on the broadcasting end of the business.

  7. Thanks, Denis. I’d assumed that Newsday articles were still behind the paywall, but this one doesn’t appear to be:


    I agree that this looks less like a dismissal of Brooklyn than an “I don’t want to talk about that right now.” And that MSG should clearly rather have the Isles in Brooklyn than at a new arena in Queens – if the former, that’d be 40 fewer dates a year that Barclays could use to compete with MSG for concert dates.

  8. Lost in all the back-and-forth about the Islanders and the Coliseum is the on-the-ice reality — the Islanders are an absolutely dreadful team, and have been either the worst or near the very bottom of the NHL for the past 5 years. That, more than anything else, has sealed their fate. Also, keep in mind that two county executives — one Democrat, one Republican — have tried their best in the past four years to give away the store to Charles Wang, to no avail. If there was a great financial windfall to building a new arena for the Islanders, don’t you think a smart guy like Wang would have already seized the opportunity himself?

  9. Bettman spends so much of his time fouling off breaking ball questions about his (many) failing franchises and markets… maybe he’s just so used to intentionally slicing pitches down the foul lines that when someone grooves a dead changeup he fouls that off too?

    Right, Brooklyn is too far away from the fans… and has no transit access… despite the hundreds of thousands who commute daily to and from it. Not like Hempstead, huh Bettman?

    Mike: Wang’s own projections showed that the arena would generate around $33m in new money annually (for the team). With the deal offered, building it would have cost him somewhere between $13-17m annually (if I remember the numbers right). So, are we to believe that he’s giving away $15m+ a year in revenue rather than pay for part of the building himself??? If so, he’s dumber even than his ownership record would suggest…

  10. to John Bladen: Definitely agree – it was a far better deal for Wang to take the county’s money, rather than put up his own. But it was a deal that clearly would have been much, much better for Wang, and worse for the people putting up the money — Nassau County taxpayers. This is a chicken-and-egg argument. Wang and his backers try to make this out that a new arena will turn the Islanders into winners, and history in all major sports tells us it just ain’t so. I’d rather see Nassau County sell the development rights for the coliseum and surrounding real estate to Wang, who would keep the profits from Coliseum-based events but who also would be responsible for all ongoing maintenance and operating costs. No government handouts to billionaires, no ongoing costs borne by the county. True private enterprise.

  11. LOL at “many failing franchises and markets”. I’ve got a hundred bucks that says the NHL will even expand again in the next five years.

    Long Island has, what, 7 million residents? Sure, plenty are Rangers fans, but the Isles would be fine if they had a building.

    Also, if they don’t get a building and they are going to move, then I don’t get why Brooklyn would make more sense than Quebec, Markham (assuming that arena happens) or even Saskatoon. Those places have known fan bases and would pop the league TV contracts for Canadian broadcast rights. I think that’s a lot more than Brooklyn could offer.

  12. Ben;

    The NHL might expand. That is no guarantee of fiscal health (see WHA, NASL, WFL etc). Expansions are sometimes borne of desperation rather than growth.

    Phx, Florida and NJ are in major financial trouble (IE: losses in the $20-40m range annually and no way to cut them significantly under the current CBA. Owners offering to pay just to give away the franchise in NJ…). Several other teams lose money year in and year out, but the losses are sustainable for a rich enough owner. Owners are fine with losing money so long as franchise values are increasing. In the NHL, only the top ten or twelve teams are seeing annual value increases. The rest are basically dead in the water.

    Expansion franchises were last sold for about $100m (Nash, Atl, Col) about a decade ago. The market price of a ‘run of the mill’ NHL franchise? Atlanta sold for $110m, Phx for $140m (in bankruptcy) and 27% of Nashville was sold for $15m… for a net of just under $60m for the franchise itself.

    Gagliardi bought the Stars and half of their arena for an impressive number… but most of that was for the building.

    I’d say a league in which expansion franchises have decreased in actual (let alone corrected) selling price over the past decade isn’t as healthy as you’d like to think.

    Re: Saskatoon, you’ve got to be kidding… Have you ever been there? Max 230,000 people, many of those retired or farmers now living in the city.

    Saskatoon is less than a third the size of Winnipeg, itself the smallest NHL market by some way. BTW, do you know how much the addition of Wpg affected the NHL’s tv deal in Canada? $0.

  13. Msg did not buy the Isles broadcast rights at all. Cablevision did in 1978 to help them get their cable franchise started, then Cablevision bought Msg.

    The Rangers supported the vote Yes campaign? Five seconds of Dolan telling anyone to vote for anything is a great infomercial to vote the other way.

    It was all a shell game, not by the Ranger players or Sather who came out on cue, but Dolan.

    What was Dolan going to do, come out and say he wanted to save 300m dollars that he has to pay the Isles and permanently expand his franchises to the Coliseum so vote no? Plus he wanted another entertainment to own, which is what Msg is doing with the LA Forum and in Hartford?

    If Dolan wanted to make any team but his own popular he would cover them, not hide them like he does daily in his paper (unless it’s bad news)
    or all the +2 games on television for the lowest ratings.

    After weeks of ripping the referendum in Dolan’s paper, after it was obviously clear it was not going to pass in polls before hand, Dolan’s paper
    gave a token endorsement that said the process should continue.

    If this was a referendum for Cablevision, Dolan’s paper would not write one negative word or even use his name, instead Newsday had NIFA’s George Marlin ripping it every chance they could get.

    One big shell game.

    Newsday making this front page news was more of the same all designed to make things even worse with the Isles and the County to get them out and get what Dolan wants in plus save three hundred million dollars he has to pay the Isles.

    As for Bettman the Isles should play at Msg because they are much New York City as the Yankees and already fill up half the garden with Islander fans from the city when they play there.

  14. The only way the Islanders will move is if they move to Queens. We know it will eventually happen because teams are basically in line for their handout. What will happen is that the team will likely get a new arena near Citi Field.

    Also, we all know that the NHL itself is unhealthy, but there could be a round of contraction instead of expansion. The truth is that Gary Bettman is a worse commish than either David Stern or Bud Selig.

    What would really help is if a showman were to take over the job. We should have the season begin in the middle of September and the Stanley Cup Finals should be scheduled so they take place during May sweeps. In that case, a game should be played every other day or do it like MLB does the World Series.

    If there is expansion, I am betting that the teams will be in Indianapolis and Seattle with Detroit moving to the Eastern Conference.

  15. So if the Isles being an injured team for most of the last five years after four playoffs in five years means they must move, I guess every team in the area should have moved out of New York decades ago.

    Dolan does not want competition much less a competitive Islander or Devils team, he wants a monopoly where his team owns the very tiny NY hockey market. He keeps the cost of Isles telecasts bottom of the barrel on hidden channels that do not have HD, since he bought Newsday the Isles have gotten less coverage.

    The relationship is so bad between the teams they don’t even play preseason. Dolan wants to save 300 million dollars, he wants the Isles not in Brooklyn, not in Nassau but out of New York.

    Dolan’s media and the city media will all get their selective amnesia about how Dolan has his tax exemption since 1981 and every other local team got a taxpayer funded facility.

  16. Got a link to how the Isles configuration at Brooklyn would look like: newyorkislandersadrift.blogspot.com/2012/04/barclays-center-confirms-hockey-layout.html

    Looks very America West Arena Phoenix Coyotes to me.
    And re future Isles TV after the Evil Dolan sees the contract expire: Well, there’s always SNY or YES, the former is looking for a winter team.

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