It's the middle of summer, there are Alexei Yashin rumours and not much else coming out of Long Island.
But the New York Islanders have a potentially franchise altering event coming up on Monday, with the team's massive arena project going to a referendum Aug. 1.
That's become a massive political fight between Republicans and Democrats, with Republican Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano for the proposal and New York State Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs against it.
Isles owner Charles Wang, meanwhile, is painting a dire picture of what a "no" vote would mean. The team's lease at the nearly 40-year-old Nassau Coliseum is up in 2015 but without some progress toward a massive overhaul by next June, Wang told Newsday he will have hit "the end of the road" in trying to keep the team in the area.
Chris Botta, who covers the Islanders at NYI Point Blank, says that isn't an idle threat.
"If this public vote, which was set for Aug. 1 to give the Islanders the best chance to win it, gives thumbs down to the deal, I honestly do not know what Wang and the county executive can do next," Botta said. "Wang had already tried his Lighthouse proposal, where he was going to pay for the complete development of the Coliseum property. That was shot down and is now dead forever.
"The Isles have had a lot of losses the last 18 years. If somehow they manage to lose this one, it would be the biggest and most humiliating in the history of the franchise. For the sake of the future of the team here, it just cannot happen."
Early indications are that the vote is going to be very close, with a "yes" potentially meaning a $400-million redevelopment and a "no" potentially meaning a move elsewhere. (With plenty of turns in the road to come afterward.)
Some of the media coverage has given the deal a thumbs down, with the New York Daily News issuing a scathing editorial calling it a "gift" to a billionaire.
The Isles have lost a ton of money over the last decade-plus and are really in a holding pattern without a new rink, unwilling to spend much money and unable to be that competitive as a result. They're currently an astounding $9-million under the salary floor and their attendance slipped to 11,000 last season, last in the league (even behind the league-owned Phoenix Coyotes).
If the referendum doesn't go through, expect another few years of similar figures, with threats of a move beginning to pick up. The Islanders could land elsewhere in the New York area (with Queens one long-rumoured destination and Brooklyn also in the mix), but with the Atlanta Thrashers moving to a Canadian locale this off-season, there will also be a lot of eyes in this country on the situation in Long Island.
My sense is things are going to get worse before there's any progress with the Isles, which is going to keep them on "relocation watch" the next couple years. Wang is a resident and has already spent a small fortune fighting to keep them in his backyard, but even he appears ready to throw in the towel and explore other options.Report Typo/Error