There is a #91 Tavares Jersey that is framed and hung on Eric Murphy's office wall on the set of HBO's "Entourage." It's ironic, considering the show had it's final season on HBO last year and the Islanders might not be far behind.
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In August 2011, a referendum which would have allowed the Islanders to borrow up to $400 million to modernize the Nassau Coliseum failed in Nassau County. In even more simplified terms, tax payers living in Nassau County, NY did not want to pay to have the Nassau Coliseum updated which could leave the Islanders homeless. Their lease with the oldest arena in the NHL expires in 2015.
The correlation between this situation and the Penguins situation back in 2008 are very similar. Penguins ownership, headed up by the NHL Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux, were convinced that the Penguins only hope to remain competitive was to secure a new arena. They were also turned down by Pennsylvania taxpayers.
Unfortunately for Islanders fans, that's where the similarities stop. The Penguins, after a lot of posturing and negotiating on the part of Lemieux and his ownership group, the Penguins got their new arena and stayed in Pittsburgh. There have been a few news articles and a book written about how close the Penguins came to leaving Pittsburgh for Kansas City. It might turn out that's where the Islanders might go if an arena deal for them cannot be negotiated.
Two things to keep in mind when you think about the possibility of the Islanders moving: where could they move and who would decide when to move? The answer to the last question is probably the most important part.
The owner of the Islanders is a Charles Wang.
If you're not an Islanders fan, you've probably never heard of Mr. Wang. But, if you've ever watched TV on your computer, most of that technology is due to a company owned by Mr. Wang. Charles Wang owns NeuLion, an IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) company that works with smaller content producers to bring video over the web to subscribers. If you ever wondered how NHL GameCenter Live on NHL.com came to be, Charles Wang's NeuLion developed that software. So, needless to say, Mr. Wang is anchored to the NHL, regardless of his ownership of the Islanders.
It would be a far cry to say that Charles Wang was emotionally invested in his team. Regadless of what you may think of Mike Milbury, I think he is a buffoon who's best days were as a player. He had no business as an NHL general manager and he has even less business commenting on the NHL. But, Wang saw fit to give Milbury complete control of his team.
While in charge, Milbury traded Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen to Florida for two guys I can't even remember. He signed albatross Alexei Yashin to a big contract that Yashin would later be bought out of by Wang himself. And, to top it all off, Milbury passed on eventual All-Stars Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik to draft the Sixty Seven Million Dollar Man Rick DiPeitro (I know it was $67.5 million he signed for, I just wanted to use the Steve Austin reference). After the damage was done, Milbury bolted. As a note of reference, in that span of six years Milbury was in charge, the Islanders lost in the first round three times if they qualified for the playoffs at all. Lord knows how much money was lost in the process.
To say Wang is invested in his team monetarily is right on the money (allow me the cheap pun). Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find anything that said how much he purchased the franchise for. But, I was able to find a few articles that quoted various sources in and around the Islanders organization that they've been losing approximately $10 million on a yearly basis. Unfortunately, once again, I can't confirm from what time those losses extended.
Mr. Wang has said publicly that he has no intention of selling. I have the feeling the Islanders have turned into a toxic asset for Mr. Wang. When that happens, you can do one of two things: sell and attempt to recoup as much as you can before the bottom drops out, or find a way to make it attractive and sell to break even. I doubt he'll sell the franchise for any less than he originally payed. So, that leaves making it work in order to sell. The easiest way is relocation.
In a recent interview, Gary Bettman stated there is no shortage of markets that want the NHL in their cities. Kansas City and Quebec City have new arenas waiting for someone to fill them, and Seattle is also in the rumor mill as a potential destination.
I'm not going to speculate where the Islanders will go. 2015 is still a ways off. I've seen first hand, with the Penguins arena situation, that the closer to a deadline you get the more desperate one side becomes to make a deal. Honestly, I think one way or another, a deal will be made and the Islanders will stay put. However, I thought the Penguins were goners a few years back, so I've been wrong before.
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