Before we get into celebrating the potential end of Charles Wang’s ownership of the New York Islanders, let’s acknowledge one thing: There might not be a New York Islanders, or Brooklyn Islanders, without him.
He could have cut bait, sold to someone looking to relocate the franchise. Lord knows there were offers. But he not only fought to keep them in New York, he fought to keep them on the Island, and that shouldn’t be lost when looking back on his 15 years of ownership.
That said: Moving to Brooklyn only mended this franchise’s reputation as far as it could be mended with Wang as the owner. The inept management trickles down from the top. Free agents evaluate every facet of a team, but it begins with the person cutting the checks, and the Islanders have had far too many farcical moments under Wang.
They’re changing buildings, changing jerseys and according to Bob McKenzie, likely changing ownership as well. It’s about time.
(Literally, about time: TSN reports that a $75 million loan repayment is due at season’s end, and Islanders Point Blank notes that 15 years is “coincidentally the amount of time an owner has to depreciate the purchase price of a team under IRS tax law.” Uh-huh …)
The question then becomes “who buys the Islanders?”
The answer better be “someone associated with the Barclays Center ownership group.”
As Richard Peddie, former head of MLSE, told Bloomberg News when the Islanders cut the Brooklyn deal:
“What they’re missing is synergies,” he said. “One sales force, one marketing force. They’re missing opportunities by not having the same owner. It’s obviously better than where the Islanders were. I understand why they’re doing it, but it’s not all that it could be.”
The Toronto Maple Leafs, Raptors and Air Canada Centre are all under one owner, and they make all the monies.
The obvious idea here is that some part of the Barclays Braintrust is buying the team. With how things have moved so fluidly between the two sides — from moving the hockey team there to installing Ratner as the developer for the Coliseum — you would have to think that would be the most likely option. But, of course, we don’t know.
Another scenario is a little darker; the Islanders have a 25-year “iron-clad” lease to play at the Barclays Center. Hopefully, if a sale does happen, it’s not to someone who is going to test the strength of the irons cladding that lease. The franchise has been down that road before. The counter to this thought is that there’s a lucrative cable deal that any buyer would be silly to be running away from, assuming they tried to leave the New York area.
Between the cable deal and the arena deal, the Islanders’ relocation talk should be quieted. Especially when Wang is still the seller.
The X-Factor in all of this is Mikhail Prokhorov, the owner of the Brooklyn Nets. A year and a half ago, he said he wouldn’t consider buying the Islanders, but that’s before their relocation in 2015 was official. He’s currently doing a dance with the NBA about relocating the Nets’ “home office” to Russia so he can still run for office there without any foreign ownership ties, so who the hell knows what the political climate will be in the next year.
His decisions running the Nets aside – the multi-million dollar gamble on veterans has produced middling results, while his absence from the area has drawn fire – there’s no question he’s not a nickel-and-dimer. He’ll spend on talent, he’ll spend on infrastructure and one assumes he’s not going to micromanage like Wang because, frankly, the Nets are his baby.
We’ll see where this goes. Hopefully not to a place where Wang says he couldn’t find a buyer.