It has never been a particularly easy time to be a New York Islanders fan….well outside of the dynasty years. But if you remove the glory of the early 1980’s, it’s been a parade of heartbreak, failure, and depression for the majority of the history of the franchise.
It is not a stretch to pinpoint the source of many of the issues that have plagued the Islanders; the ownership situation. Islanders fans know exactly what I am talking about, and while the trials and tribulations of the Islander faithful don’t exactly register outside of Long Island, some of the more sordid moments have become pretty famous (Does anyone remember a man by the name of John Spano?).
Longtime Islander owner Charles Wang was, self-admittedly, not a hockey fan. His purchase of the Islanders in 2001 was strictly done as an avenue towards real-estate success. When the Lighthouse Project referendum failed in 2011, that path was decidedly closed, and so Wang was left with very few options for the future of the franchise. Luckily, his 2012 announcement of an arena deal with the Barclays Center in Brooklyn prevented the heartbreak of seeing the Quebec City Islanders, or the Kansas City Islanders.
But Wang is no longer the sole voice of authority in the Islanders organization; his sale of his majority stake to Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin brought two new names into the fold of ownership, and they are currently the men running the show in Brooklyn.
Here’s the thing though; save a press conference or two, you’d be hard pressed to recognize just who Ledecky and Malkin are, what they think about the team, what their philosophy is, pretty much anything revolving around owning a professional sports franchise.
The scuttlebutt has them biding them their time, and developing a great deal of attention to bringing in a president of hockey operations to oversee the current General Manager (for now…) Garth Snow.
The silence, and lack of action so far has not been cutting it for Islanders fans. Again this is a fanbase that has had to put up with disrespect and mocking from every corner of the hockey world, constant relocation rumors, and the elephant in the room; the future of John Tavares.
The friction between ownership and Barclays has been playing out publicly over the past few months, with rampant speculation abounding. These rumors have included the following; potential arena sites at Belmont, CitiField, a return to the Coliseum, even a temporary housing at Madison Square Garden.
What free agent looks at this situation from the outside and says to themselves; “Well, they may end up moving in two years, but to heck with it, I’m signing!” That doesn’t even begin to include the oft-reported issue with the ice at Barclays, the obstructed views…you get the picture.
And then we get to Tavares. The Islanders Captain is the franchise; no ifs ands or buts. He is one of the most talented players in the league, goes about his business in a respectful and workmanlike fashion, and has been a stalwart New York Islander for the duration of his career on Long Island. To lose him would be nothing short of an epic disaster, crippling a franchise that already draws poorly.
It’s at times like these where a fan just wants to hear something, anything from their owner; some measure of reassurance; “Yes, we are working with Barclays on renegotiating the terms of our lease,” “Yes, we are committed to keeping John Tavares in blue and orange for the rest of his playing career,” “Yes, Jack Capuano still resides in Garth Snow’s basement”
But what have Islanders fans heard? Nothing. What has ownership show in their tenure so far to inspire some kind of faith in the process? A tire fire of a first half of the season, a mess of a goalie situation, a coach fired far too late, young talent getting yanked around, it seemingly doesn’t end with this team. Hell, Islanders nation has heard more about the situation from Gary Bettman than they have Ledecky and Malkin.
Yes, I realize that Garth Snow is directly responsible for most of this mess, but it goes without saying that the buck doesn’t stop with him; it goes to the top. When you are the person signing the checks, that generally means you have the right to make changes in your team.
Let’s even give Ledecky and Malkin the benefit of the doubt, and give them a “pass” for this season as being one to gather information. When you don’t have an arena figured out, and your franchise center coming up on free agency, there really isn’t much time to wait things out.
That’s not to imply that ownership should be rushing into decisions, it’s understandable that they don’t want to make a mistake and get the right people. But with the history of this franchise, and the uncertainty that faces it, how can continued inaction benefit the team, or the fans?