On the surface, you would think the there is no way a team with a storied history like the New York Islanders could be a relocation target but when you peel back the layers you see a failing franchise with no relief to their Arena woes in sight. You see, the Islanders play in a dump of a stadium. It is the second oldest in the league (MSG) and the second smallest from a capacity stand point (behind Winnipeg). Although I don’t have the data on how they stack up for executive suites against the league but their 32 is about half the normal number of new arenas. I won’t get in a habit of quoting Gary Bettman but in his words: “I think it is clear, and I say this perhaps as a matter of observation, and as a matter of fact: There is probably no worse major-league facility right now in North America than the Nassau Coliseum.”
1) No arena plan in sight
Wang tried to use public funds to generate a new arena in the form of the Lighthouse project several years back but it ultimately rejected by voters. There is talk about another solution to keep the Islanders on the island but I would say that is very unlikely with nothing materially developing. You can read about that here. That is either a last stich effort to save some face with the fans on the island before he sells the team or moves them. He also needs to imply he has options to any perspective buyers.
2) Brooklyn & Kansas City are not options
In spite of what you might hear, Brooklyn is not an option. Although I haven’t seen definitively, there is numerous reports that says that they must remove 4,000 sites to accommodate the ice. Who knows how many views will still be obstructed. It is true that Wang is playing an Exhibition game in Brooklyn but he also played a game in Kansas City while he was pitching the Lighthouse project. That is something Neil deMause would call the no threat-threat and simply a leverage play. As Some of you might know, Kansas City does have an Arena that is ready for an NHL team but I believe the league is staying away from small market cities that cannot add value to the National TV coverage (KC is #31 vs. Seattle #14). You might here some talk about Queens but there is no arena in the cards right now but New York even subsidies the Yankees new stadium so that might not be out of the realm of possibility.
3) The timing could not be more perfect…well maybe a little
Hansen probably needs about a year or two to procure an NBA team and he has gone on record to say that it is probably best for the NHL to come a few years after the Basketball team citing challenges with Hockey in Key Arena. The lease with Nassau is up in the summer of 2015, although that might be a year too early I am sure that a year in the Key or Everett or Kent would be a small blip to get a team here. When it happens, it will happen quickly like the Thrashers sale and move.
4) Wang (probably) wants to sell
http://www.newsday.com/news/charles-wang-regrets-buying-islanders-1.1230247 (This is old and is behind a pay wall but you get the point) Since Wang has purchased the team it has been a failure on and off the ice. How many DiPietro jokes have you heard? OR what about this mess. According to Forbes, they are the second least valuable franchise on the market.
Quebec City could be the variable but the stars are aligning for the Islanders switching coasts.
Here are some other Islander articles of note: