Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Season on the Brink

Standing in my backyard this morning, waiting for my pug to finish her morning constitutional, there was a noticeable chill in the air for the first time since the early Spring. It was a tangible reminder of the changing of seasons...not of summer to fall, but of "offseason" to "hockey season". Regardless of universally low expectations for this year's Islanders, I'm still excited for that first puck to drop. What can I say? I'm a glutton for punishment and love the game even when my hometown team struggles.

The big news in 360 land this summer was the birth of my first child, a boy, in July. It's a cliche, but having a child really does make you look at life with new eyes. All my life I'd always hoped to have a son to share my love of hockey with. I imagined bringing him to games, buying him a snack at each intermission just like my dad did for me. I'd tell him stories of the "old days" watching Bossy, Trottier, Lafontaine, Turgeon, and DiPietro...wait, DP will still be on the team as my boy is a teenager, nevermind.

Now that all these dreams are close to becoming reality, I'm unfortunately forced to temper them at the risk that they never come to be. I'm referring to the tenuous future of hockey on Long Island. While there have been no definitive statements from Charles Wang confirming matters, it's become the consensus view that hockey will leave Long Island if the Lighthouse project is not approved. I follow the developments of the project just as many of you undoubtedly do, but I can't cut through all the red-tape to figure out - in plain English - where things really stand. Oh, you just presented the project to Lynbrook residents! What does that mean to me? I want to know exactly what the real hurdles are, when decisions are being made, and how these impact the future of my team.

As I think about my son, I have no choice but to envision two possible hockey-related futures...one where hockey and the Islanders are an important part of his childhood, and one where, realistically, he'll have no interest in the sport or worse yet find himself drawn to the Evil Empire at MSG. If the worst happens and the team does leave, I wonder what my reaction would be? Frankly, I've thought it over and I truly believe I would abandon the game completely. I just don't see how I could continue to enjoy hockey under those circumstances. For all the time and energy I've devoted to the team over the years, it seems almost unfathomable to say that, but I think I'd quit cold-turkey and become one of the Sportscenter crowd who couldn't even tell you who won the Cup last year. Being in this position really generates empathy for the dedicated fans in Winnipeg, Quebec, Hartford and all the other cities that have lost franchises over the years. In each of those places, I'm sure there were thousands of fans as passionate for their team as I am for mine.

We may all be looking at this season with modest expectations. But to me, this year is arguably the most crucial in the history of the franchise. It just so happens that the important events will be happening off the ice. For all of our sakes, I hope I have the opportunity to buy my son overpriced popcorn and soda for the foreseeable future, as we cheer and curse OUR hockey team.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

On an administrative note, I'd like to welcome my brother, Brian Carey, as a regular contributor to Islanders 360. He's written several posts over the last year, and he'll be doing a lot more going forward as co-owner of the blog. This will allow for more (and more diverse) posts this season. Of course, as the founder of this blog I reserve the right to fire him at a moment's notice. Consider him the Ted Nolan to my Garth Snow. Hope you all enjoy the blog this year.

MC

7 comments:

NYIsles1/IslesTigers said...

Mike,

There is nothing from Mr Wang or anyone that this team will be moved or even sold if the Lighthouse is not approved. A year from now even Cablevision could own this team or the company that purchased the Dragons if the Dolan's dumped the Garden or got removed as owners of the Rangers by the NHL.

Charles Wang was at prospects camp so it's very much about hockey for this owner.

Who would walk away from a cable contract that pays them over 300m dollars until the year 2030 with an estimated 36m payment by that point?

The current leases run until 2015 with Smg and Nassau County, if the Isles lose the Lighthouse they can opt out of the Nassau lease but not the Smg lease.

Regards,
NYIsles1
New York Islander Fan Central

Mike Carey and Brian Carey said...

I'll have to respectfully disagree. While I believe Charles has a commitment to winning, I have little doubt his interest in the team is largely due to it being a major spoke in the wheel of the Lighthouse project. I don't have the exact quote, but several months ago he was asked about the future of the franchise if the project is not approved. Rather than seizing the opportunity to clear the air and confirm the security of the team on LI, his answer was vague to the point of communicating the exact opposite message. As for SMG, like any contract this can be bought-out...and with the right pressure from local government, likely at pennies on the dollar. Listen, I truly hope you are correct. Maybe there are some facts I am missing or I'm reading too much into certain things...but I just don't have a warm fuzzy feeling right now.

Anonymous said...

What a dperessing thought. I agree with you Mike. If the Lighthouse project fails, I could see Wang keeping the team around a year or two tops to save some face, but then he sells and from there... who knows.

I remember his interview on WFAN last season and when asked what would happen if the project fails, he said something vague like "I'd like to think the project will succeed".

Even if the project doesn't start on time and we lose a season of construction, that's fine. This must not fail!!

Anonymous said...

What a dperessing thought. I agree with you Mike. If the Lighthouse project fails, I could see Wang keeping the team around a year or two tops to save some face, but then he sells and from there... who knows.

I remember his interview on WFAN last season and when asked what would happen if the project fails, he said something vague like "I'd like to think the project will succeed".

Even if the project doesn't start on time and we lose a season of construction, that's fine. This must not fail!!

Fish Bulb said...

Wait, you mean the biggest news in 360 land this summer wasn't my contribution to the blog?

This season is important for many reason, the biggest of course being the fate of the Lighthouse project. It's also important for this team to show some signs of improvment, even if it's just the development of the young players. The fans and community need a group of guys that we can rally around for years to come.

Secondary to the Cups we won, the reason guys like Bossy, Trots and Smith are so revered is becuase they were around for years and we as fans embraced them as tru Long Islanders.

One can only hope that guys like Bailey, Okposo, Tambellini, Neilsen, etc. can become solid players and stick around for years and years. They'll become "our team" as opposed to a team of guys we expect to be around a season or two tops.

If that happens, and the Lighthouse project passes and proceeds, then the future of hockey on LI is bright and strong.

If neither happens, then God help us all.

NYIsles1/IslesTigers said...

What can I add folks, Fred Wilpon and a lot of other companies that never spent a dime on a hockey in this community much less pay out over a hundred a thirty million dollars in contracts to Alexei Yashin, Michael Peca and others his second summer and countless millions after that had the exact same right to bid on the same property last summer.

Mr Wang could have bid just the same on the proprty and never purchased the team in the first place.

This is a man who takes out his minor league team and attends games in Bridgeport who also finally secured a place for the prospects to play in a modern building and again bailed out the Boe family when they could not pay the bills and I have read interviews from outsiders who do business with him that his mood that day depends on how his team did the game before.

He even closed sale on the hotel next to the Coliseum for 100 million.

He has redone his plans for this on several occasions, I suspect he will find another way if it is not approved because everyone knows the Coliseum needs a renovation and no one can pay for it.

Thanks again

Mike Carey and Brian Carey said...

I love the passion and enthusiasm! Like I said before, I really hope you're right. Wang is a fickle businessman, but he's also demonstrated a commitment to Long Island and the team. The question is, which pull is stronger?

MC