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For Isles Fans, Another Devastating Loss

Nassau residents deliver more heartbreak for a once-proud franchise.

The New York Islanders won't be put on ice today. In 2015? That may be another story.

After nearly two decades of fits and starts, and multiple threats to relocate the team, the downtrodden National Hockey League franchise suffered their latest calamity in their never-ending quest to build that elusive state-of-the-art arena.

Voters soundly rejected a $400 million bond issuance that would have let Nassau County borrow to help build a new rink for the team that once made Long Island the center of the hockey universe.

Those years, when Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Clark Gillies and Billy Smith owned hockey, when Denis Potvin, Tomas Jonsson and Bobby Nystrom were hoarding Stanley Cup championships, seem like a lifetime ago.

From 1980-83, no one beat the Islanders when it mattered. And unless you were one of the lucky or connected ones, a ticket to see the Islanders was difficult to get. Much easier? Predicting a May parade on Hempstead Turnpike.

For four seasons that's exactly what Long Island got, winning their last Stanley Cup in 1983 with a tidy four-game sweep of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and the rest of the favored Edmonton Oilers.

A year later, the Isles would lose to the Oilers in the finals. They haven't been back. In fact, they haven't won a playoff series since 1993. For 18 years, the Isles have been on the short end of the stick, though few defeats have left fans as empty as tonight's loss on a warm August night.

These days, the team has played near the bottom of the standings, both on and off the ice, where attendance has sagged. Two decades of losing will do that. Last season, the Isles drew 453,456 fans, dead last in the NHL. On average, 11,059 fans went to each game, more than 1,000 per game behind the second-worst average, set in Phoenix.

In comparison, the New Jersey Devils, who also play in the shadows of New York City, brought in 605,803 fans, or 14,775 per game. Unlike the Islanders, the Devils have had success in recent years, winning three Stanley Cups since 1995. New Jersey didn't have Mike Milbury nonsensically trading away future all-stars. Their owner also never signed an unproven goalie to a 15-year-long deal.

Oh, and the Devils have a new arena, the Prudential Center, which opened in 2007. The Newark, N.J.-based building boasts being the third-highest grossing arena in the country.

A new arena on Long Island could be just as successful, contend County Executive Ed Mangano and Isles owner Charles Wang. It could bring in the big-name performers who generally skip right past the 18th-largest market in the United States.

The increased attendance would, of course, fill county coffers and ring cash registers at nearby bars and restaurants, where owners have feared the team's relocation.

But county taxpayers made it clear that the Drive for Five, and the increased business, won't be built on their backs.

Tonight, Mangano lost. Like on too many other nights, the Islanders lost too.

Wang said he's "heartbroken."

It's a feeling Islanders fans know all too well.

LIer4LIfe August 02, 2011 at 09:11 PM
Paul, Thank you for the leading questions with the underlying friendly tone. If the NHL agrees Brooklyn is the best place (which I don't think it is due to arena size) then doesn't matter what Dolan thinks, Islanders are an existing local team. The NHL will make sure to do what is in it's best interests. However, the rivalry is good for the Rangers so he may rather they stay if given the choice. I will reply to your other questions in similar format to what you used. Do you really think the Coliseum will stay open if the Islanders leave? Have you seen the state of the coliseum? Do you believe the Coliseum draws the same quality of acts as it did 20 years ago? Do you think there will be enough revenue to keep it open and keep it repaired? You can draw your own conclusions, but I side with Mike and the many others that there is little doubt what will happen. To your last point, what business will develop if a new coliseum is not built? Nothing has developed there in all this time, I realize it is only Wang's word but he stated that if the new coliseum was built there was a hotel willing to open along with additional restaurants/bars, sports medicine etc. True or not, it seems more plausible if the arena is built than if it is not, agree?
Mike August 02, 2011 at 09:29 PM
Revenue projections were based on an average attendance of 14,500. Have you been to a game lately? They're lucky to get half that, unless the Rangers are in town of course. We have a few years left and I'm sure something will get worked out by then. No need to panic. The Islanders aren't going anywhere.
Tideline August 02, 2011 at 10:21 PM
Mike, I said two things all along, their projections numbers for everything were B.S. and thye would be defeated. Mangano is not in touch with how fed up with the taxes the people of Nassau are. Here is the next prediction: Mangano will be a one termer. LOL. BTW, anyone seen Eric N. around lately ? Bha, hahahah
paul.d.spellman August 03, 2011 at 07:28 AM
LIer4Life, The islanders cannot fill an arena in their own backyard, will they really be able to fill one in the Ranger's backyard? Do you have definitive information that the coliseum will be closing?- anything else is conjecture and mostly based on comments and thoughts of depressed Islander fans who have a somewhat humorous sense of self worth that they tie to a business. What is specifically wrong with the coliseum that would prevent you from going to see a concert there? If a band was playing one Friday in the garden and the next in the coliseum, which would be more convenient for you and most of the other 1.3Million residents of long island to attend? Which would you choose?(Insert your cheesy "If the islanders leave I am never going to the coliseum" comment here) The acts will go where they make money and the people will go where it is convenient for them to see them. New Business, you do realize that any money spent at these new businesses will be just another dollar not spent someplace else. case in fact the hotel, anyone that wants to stay at a hotel goes to the Marriott, if the new hotel opens, the Mariott will see a drop in business followed by a drop in employment. To try to say there will be all this "new" business if farcical
Stephen Humenesky August 03, 2011 at 12:05 PM
How about this plan? Raise the season ticket prices on the islanders games to cover the cost of the new arena

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