NHL finally has upbeat news amid its lockout | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaNHL finally has upbeat news amid its lockout

Posted: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 | 03:55 PM

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Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark, New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn Nets owner Bruce Ratner, Islanders owner Charles Wang, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gather to announce the New York Islanders move to Brooklyn in 2015 at the Barclays Center on Wednesday in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark, New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn Nets owner Bruce Ratner, Islanders owner Charles Wang, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gather to announce the New York Islanders move to Brooklyn in 2015 at the Barclays Center on Wednesday in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Amid the chaos of the NHL lockout, there was some upbeat with the New York Islanders announcement of a 25-year agreement to begin playing at Brooklyn's Barclays Center in 2015-16 and the Columbus Blue Jackets have hired John Davidson as the team's president of hockey operations. 

We interrupt the chaos of the latest NHL lockout, one day before the league-imposed deadline to preserve an 82-game regular season, to bring you some upbeat hockey news.

The New York Islanders unveiled a 25-year agreement to begin playing at Brooklyn's Barclays Center in 2015-16 and the Columbus Blue Jackets have hired John Davidson as the team's president of hockey operations.

The Davidson development had been brewing since Tom Stillman became majority owner of the St. Louis Blues last May. The new owner wanted to cut costs and Davidson, the Blues president, became an immediate target with three years and approximately $6-million US remaining on his contract.

The two sides worked out a buyout a few weeks ago and the Blues' loss was a huge gain in Columbus. Davidson built the Blues back into a contender in his time there and he will have full autonomy in running the Blue Jackets.

The Islanders permanent move to Brooklyn's brand new Barclays Center was somewhat surprising news. Certainly, eyebrows were raised last year when the Islanders announced they were scheduled to play an exhibition game against the rival New Jersey Devils at the Barclays Center on Oct. 2.

The Islanders-Devils game was supposed to be the first sporting event held at the new home of the NBA Brooklyn Nets.

The Barclays Center has a seating capacity of only 14,500 for hockey games. Its strange hockey configuration has limited seating behind one of the nets. We'll see exactly what kind of sightlines the building has for hockey when Moscow Dynamo and SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League take to the ice at the Barclays for games on Jan. 19-20 (the connection is Nets and Barclays co-owner Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire).

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman revealed that there are hopes to increase the seating capacity at Barclays to 15,015-plus down the road. The Winnipeg Jets currently have the NHL's smallest seating capacity at 15,004, but the Jets ownership also owns the building.

Brand remains the same

Islanders owner Charles Wang said his team will continue to be called the New York Islanders. He will continue to be the club's sole owner and there currently are no plans for him to buy into the Nets and Barclays Center ownership group.

The new arena is located 44 kilometres from the Islanders current home at Nassau Coliseum, across the East River from Manhattan and right on the Long Island Railroad as well as several subway lines. 

The 40-year-old Nassau Coliseum is the second oldest building in the NHL behind Madison Square Garden, which is amid an expensive three-year facelift. For close to a decade, Wang has waged a battle with local government to have taxpayers fund the $3.75-billion Lighthouse Project. This plan called for the Coliseum to undergo a major renovation and the area around the facility was to be redeveloped with business and residential structures as well as the possibility of a minor-league baseball park.

Are there any similarities between the Islanders situation and the messy row between the city of Edmonton and Oilers owner Daryl Katz? The Oilers plight is only in the infancy stage compared the Islanders long-time arena woes.

The Islanders had out-of-state offers to move - Kansas City was a possible destination - but unlike the Oilers, Wang had a viable local option with the construction of the Barclays.

Wang said the Islanders will honour the final three seasons of his lease at Nassau Coliseum. So there will not be an immediate impact to hockey-related revenues and the league's current mess with the lockout. But when the struggling franchise does move to the Barclays, attendance has nowhere but to go up.

The Islanders routinely found themselves among the worst in average attendance in the 30-team NHL since the 2004-05 lockout:

  • 2005-06  12,609 (30th)
  • 2006-07  12,886 (28th)
  • 2007-08  13,640 (30th)
  • 2008-09  13,773 (30th)
  • 2009-10  12,735 (29th)
  • 2010-11  11,509 (30th)
  • 2011-12  13,191 (29th)

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