Could a New York Islanders sale take place in the near future?
Ever since Charles Wang took over as the majority owner of the Islanders in 2004, it has been a tumultuous tenure in Uniondale.
In the nine years that Wang has been the primary owner of the franchise, the Islanders have only made two Stanley Cup Playoff appearances, including only one in the last six.
This season, barring an absolute miracle, it appears that the Isles will make it one appearance in the last seven years, with them currently sitting in last place in the Metropolitan Division.
In the time since Wang took over, the team has had five head coaches, five captains, a #1 overall draft pick, and ZERO playoff series wins.
In fact, during the “Wang years,” the Islanders organization has actually been recognized as having one of the most miserable fan bases in the NHL, with die hards waiting each year to taste success that hasn’t been present since the year made famous by author George Orwell.
On the flip side, this also means that the Islanders have quite possibly one of the most dedicated fan bases in the league, as enduring heart break has become a virtual certainty each year that Isles fans dust off their jerseys for another 8-month roller coaster.
The organization has been brought through the trials and tribulations of once being possibly the most feared dynasty in NHL history to being reduced to a laughingstock of the league, and everything in between.
Yet through it all, fans of the orange-and-blue have stuck it out and waited patiently in their seats at the Nassau Coliseum for their fortunes to turn around; hoping, and some maybe even praying, that they will one day be able to see Lord Stanley’s Cup make its way around the Long Island ice.
On the Move
Last year, the fans finally got a taste of something special when John Tavares, Matt Moulson, and Evgeni Nabokov led the franchise to its first playoff appearance since the 2006-07 season.
While failing to get out of the first round, the Islanders did force the then-favorited Pittsburgh Penguins to six games, and had the Coliseum rocking throughout the month of April, with five years of suppressed cheers coming to a nearly deafening head.
Yet one year after that impressive run, the Islanders seem to have taken steps back rather than forward in this 2013-14 season. Tavares has been out with a season-ending injury since the Olympic break, Andrew MacDonald has been shipped to Broad Street, leaving the defensive core without one of their top two defenseman, and Matt Moulson is in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race with his third team this year.
After taking a chance by sending Moulson to the Sabres for Thomas Vanek earlier this year, the gamble made by GM Garth Snow backfired in such a way that it has made the future for New York looking even bleaker now than it did when this season began.
In Moulson, Snow gave up a crucial piece to the Islanders core, and now is left to try and fill his void and find JT a capable winger to build chemistry with.
All of this adds up to the feeling that the Islanders may now not get another realistic chance to play for the Cup until the Barclays Center becomes their home after next season. Even then, it appears as though a lot of work needs to be done in order to believe the Islanders can contend in Brooklyn.
Now after all the rumors circulating about a potential sale of the majority share of ownership, even more questions are arising over who may be in control of the team once the move becomes official.
The positive feeling that the fans had entering this season with the team on the rise, and the move to Brooklyn promising bigger and better things for the soon-to-be “Coney” Islanders, have seemed to completely be erased.
Instead, those feelings have now been replace with even more uncertainty and even more anxiety, wondering just where the heck the organization will go from here.
If Wang does, in fact, decide to sell the team, who will be the ones to take over?
There have been rumors that a Manhattan-based investment bank may be the front runners to land the franchise from the 69-year-old entrepreneur.
But while that may help the team financially, would that really be the best thing for the product on the ice? As has been witnessed time and time again in sports, big businesses owning sports franchises isn’t always a blueprint for championship success (i.e. Cablevision with the New York Knicks and New York Rangers).
What if the move to Brooklyn prompts Russian business mogul, Mikhail Prokhorov, the current majority owner of the Brooklyn Nets, to invest in the NHL as well.
Since Prokhorov took over the then-New Jersey Nets, he has proven to be willing to reach deep into his pockets to reinvent an organization, and promote positive change in a franchise’s culture and performance.
However, even if the Nets’ owner did hypothetically show some interest in acquiring the decimated Islanders, would that really be beneficial to the on-ice product? The Billionaire has financially supported hockey in the past, yet has previously stated to have no interest in acquiring the Islanders (at least until he delivers an NBA Championship to Brooklyn).
Should he have a change of heart though, he would certainly be a logical choice. He has the money, he seems to know how to use it, and he would have control over two teams playing in the same place.
However, just like with big businesses, sports fans have also seen the lack of success that can come from ownership of two teams, even if they are arena-mates (i.e. Cablevision’s (again) Jim Dolan with the Knicks and Rangers).
So while an interesting possibility, the idea of Prokhorov at the helm of the Islanders still doesn’t appear to be enough of a certain boost to make this truly a slam dunk for the organization, even if his background as a Russian does suggest a certain degree of genetic hockey smarts.
As of right now, the rumors are there and the chance that Charles Wang considers selling the team is a definite option, yet that doesn’t mean it will actually happen.
NYI owner Charles Wang in talks to sell majority stake in NHL franchise. Nothing done yet, no telling if it gets done, but talks underway.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 28, 2014
However with the fans still waiting for their time to come, and a new era in a new building set to begin after next season, the uncertainty surrounding the Islanders is a growing cause for concern. It appears that with each day, and with each rumor, more questions about the future come about, than answers.
If Charles Wang does decide to sell the team, does it necessarily mean that the team will be in better hands? If he decides to keep it, will the organization be able to improve?
These are just some of the many questions that continue to engulf the New York Islanders organization, with seemingly no end in sight.
Spencer has played hockey for over 18 years, and is an avid fan of the sport and New York Rangers. He graduated Hofstra University in 2013, with a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism.
A staff member of 88.7FM WRHU, he was a part of the sports department, providing play by play, color commentary, and beat reporting for various Hofstra Pride DI sports teams.
He also was a Feature Reporter for the New York Islanders, where he interviewed some of the top players within the Islanders locker room, and around the NHL for air during Islanders’ game broadcasts on WRHU, including during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which were simulcasted on 98.7FM ESPN Radio New York, and WFAN 660AM.