Since Saturday night when the collective bargaining agreement ran out, the NHL has officially been in a lockout. As the fight between the owners and the players association goes on, Nassau County will get a glimpse into what life would be like without the Islanders.
As reported by Newsday, “the local economy could lose more than $60 million in visitor spending , while Nassau County could take a $1 million hit in taxes and other revenues” if the lockout were to last the entire season. The Islanders have made plain their intentions to be out of Nassau Coliseum the moment their lease ends in 2015, and while the Islanders have stated their priority is to remain in the Nassau Coliseum, Long Island area there are several other options available. The most feasible of those options to keep the Islanders local is to move to the Barclays Center, which will open this year and house the Brooklyn Nets. The Islanders were to play an exhibition game there on October 2nd, but with that date only two weeks away and no end to the lockout in sight it seems destined for cancellation.
With little marketing and a lockout looming, the Islanders were unable to generate much interest in their exhibition game at the Barclays Center selling only a little over 7,000 tickets. As the Islanders continued to struggle to sell tickets Nassau County executive Ed Mangano was sure to point this out stating “the Islanders are half way to selling out the lowest seating-capacity arena in the NHL.”
Mangano has tried to downplay the possibility of the Islanders moving to Brooklyn because he realizes that would be the worst possible scenario for the County and himself. Plus he knows that if the option of moving to Brooklyn is gone for the Islanders their best chance of staying in the Long Island area would be working with the master developer for the Coliseum hub that will be appointed by the County through the RFQ process. Despite the lockout and the poor ticket sales the Islanders do still seem to be heavily interested in the Barclays Center as a home, as evidenced by their involvement in a press conference taking place today that announced the completion of a train line connecting the center to the Long Island Railroad.
When the economic realities for the Nassau Coliseum and the county are uncovered during a lockout Mangano could be feeling less confident. During the last NHL lockout, the Coliseum was able to bring in more concerts and other events to help cover the hockey losses. Now eight years later they will try to do that again, but that may be more difficult this time due to the increasingly decrepit state of the Coliseum and increased competition that includes a refurbished Madison Square Garden and a brand new Barclays Center. Nassau County is in dire financial condition with the possibility of huge budget cuts still looming and it cannot afford to suffer more losses. If there is an extended lockout the County may learn that they need the Islanders more than the Islanders need them. With cities such as Seattle, Kansas City, and Quebec all looking to attract an NHL team Charles Wang and the Islanders do have plenty of options if they are willing to leave Long Island.
The stare down that the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County are having with Charles Wang does not have an end in sight, but seeing how both the Islanders and the County could deal with an extended lockout should offer some insight into how both will approach the Coliseum issue moving forward.
John Imossi is a life long Long Islander and hockey fan, who still believes that the Islanders will be in New York come 2016. He has been writing about hockey for the past several years, and can be reached to talk hockey or anything else at John_Imossi@yahoo.com.