Could the New York Islanders find a home in Hartford, Connecticut if they’re forced to leave Brooklyn’s Barclays Center?
According to WFSB, Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin sent a letter to the Islanders ownership imploring them to take a look at the XL Center in downtown Hartford for their “interim use” and potentially as a “long-term solution” for the team if it needs to find a home.
The building is the full-time home of the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack and housed the Hartford Whalers until they moved after the 1996-97 season to Carolina where they became the Hurricanes. The Whalers started NHL play in 1979-80 but were part of the World Hockey Association from 1972-73 through 1978-79.
According to the letter, the city and state said they are trying to “pursue the transformation of the building into today’s NHL standards” and touted a new ice floor and dasher boards. It also mentioned Hartford’s population and robust business community.
Here is note in its entirety that was sent by Malloy and Bronin and was addressed to Islanders owners Jon Ledecky, Scott Malkin and Charles Wang. Malkin and Ledecky recently took over for Wang as majority owners of the team.
Earlier this week according Bloomberg News citing people familiar with Barclays Center’s financials, the arena had determined it would make more money without the Islanders.
Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who owns the building and the Nets, has since November been seeking an investor to take a stake in both. As of earlier this month, a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season — a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said.
In early September, Newsday explained how the Islanders or Barclays Center could opt out of the 25-year lease between the two entities.
After the Islanders finish their second season in Brooklyn, the two sides have until Jan. 1, 2018, to renegotiate the terms of the current deal. If no new deal is reached, the two sides can stay with the current deal or choose to opt out.
Each side would have until Jan. 30, 2018, to deliver an opt-out notice in writing. If the Islanders decide to opt out, the team can choose to leave at the end of either its third or fourth season. If Barclays triggers the opt-out, the Islanders would have to leave after the fourth season.
The team just completed its first season in Brooklyn in May. The opt-out clause can be triggered only if the two sides have engaged in “good-faith discussions” during the renegotiation window, according to the license agreement.
Ledecky and Malkin have reportedly explored possibilities for a new arena in Queens, potentially near Citi Field, or near Belmont Park – closer to the team’s traditional fan base in Long Island.
After the news about Barclays Center broke, Newsday reported that Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said he had spoken with the team about coming back to the Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders’ previous home.
A return of the NHL to Hartford may sound enticing for those who appreciate nostalgia around the Whalers, but such a scenario is probably unlikely. During NHL All-Star Weekend, commissioner Gary Bettman was asked about the Islanders’ issues with Barclays Center and indicated the team is dedicated the local metropolitan area.
“Well, the owners are committed to the franchise. They’re committed to New York and the great fan base that has followed the Islanders,” Bettman said. “There are some issues about playing in Barclays. It may be fundamental to the system, and that’s not something that can be fixed in the short term. I think as is prudent Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky are reviewing the situation and looking very seriously at what their options are.”
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