Could We See The Albany Islanders? – Bruce’s Thought Of The Day
I would love to take credit for this original thought but it wasn't mine. The tempting thought comes from The Times Union Sports Writer Pete Iorizzo who opined about this very thought in his column in Fridays paper. As a huge NHL fan it caught my attention and is very interesting.
Full disclosure- I am a Big Time Rangers fan. The rivalry runs long and deep. Pain and euphoria. Success and Failure. Also being from Long Island the Islanders are the only pro franchise that plays it's games on the Island and is personal to me and millions of others.
Up front I don't think they leave the Island but a recent vote for a tax increase to fund a new building and replacing the antiquated Nassau Veterans Coliseum was turned down by the voters and leaves the NHL franchise possibly searching for a new home.
In the end I think some sort of financing mechanism is reached and the Islanders stay on the island however the possibility of moving to the Capital region is fascinating to contemplate.
I believe the Isles will stay. How I am not sure as owner Charles Wang doesn't seem interested in paying for the arena himself despite being a billionaire. This is the way of pro sports sadly. Get the minions to pay for your toy and threaten the loss of jobs, tax intake and of course prestige. The Islanders are the 2nd most successful franchise in New York, sporting 4 titles in a row which is tied with the NY Giants (who play in Jersey) for the 2nd most championships. The Yankees 27 leads.However the Isles have fallen on hard times since the heydays of Trottier, Smith, Bossy etc etc. It's now 7 years since they last made the playoffs and the building, once a crown jewel is old, tired, ugly, and well you can't tell the difference between a hot dog and a sausage in the dank barn.
But the Capital Region? I haven't been here long enough to assess whether this area could/would support an NHL franchise. I would imagine a few Canadian Markets would want in on the bidding should they choose to leave Long Island. The AHL's Albany team drew the lowest attendance in the Eastern Conference last year and the team missed the playoffs. The parent club, the NJ Devils used Albany as a training ground and made frequent call ups this year. Minor league Hockey left the Capital Region once already. Market size as Mr. Iorizzo points out would be the smallest, 5 steps behind the current owners of that tab the Buffalo Sabres. 2 Small market teams in Upstate NY- I think the NHL would be seen as a small time game if they had too many small market teams. Currently I believe only Winnipeg is a smaller market then the capital region would be and Winnipeg just got a team back after losing the Jets to Phoenix in 1996.
I just don't see NHL commish Gary Bettman allowing 2 NY teams to dominate the eastern conference in Upstate New York.
The arena the Isles would play in would be the Times Union Center and it seats a little less then 14,000. While this doesn't seem to a be a problem the lack of luxury boxes and sharing the Arena with a College Basketball team from a small Conference will not be a good image for the NHL. Act small and you are small with all due respect to the Capital Region which has great hockey fans just not enough of them. Would it have Corporate partners? Possibly. Economically the area is getting better.
My bet is the Isles stay on Long Island. I don't see the politicians of LI allowing their only big league franchise to leave or fear for their own jobs will come. I sense some sort of tricked up ballot measure coming and who knows the way Governments shove bad policy down the people's throats I can easily see the public being bypassed to vote even if it is their money being used. Politicians don't care about the people's money.
So while I love the thinking of Columnist Iorizzo, and while I enjoy living here and would love to see real NHL hockey not just pre-season games in the Capital Region, I just can't fathom the NHL which has many issues in the marketing department allowing 2 small marlet teams within 4 hours of each other. I do see the Isles if all possibilities fall through sharing an arena with the new Brooklyn Nets. This way both red headed step children franchises can whine about lack of coverage and respect in the NY market.
The Islanders lease on Long Island ends after the 2015 season so decisions are coming soon. I do believe the NHL wants the thing settled and doesn't want to have to go through another late off season move like Atlanta going to Winnipeg after voters turned down new arena advances and the Corporate Area not having much interest in the product.
The Albany Islanders- Nice thought but won't happen!