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Should NHL step in to run Islanders?

NY IslandersNow that Charles Wang‘s development efforts surrounding Nassau Coliseum are all but dead, the New York Islanders (NHL) are being run as a minor-league franchise, according to observers. Should the NHL step in to run things on Long Island?

That’s the argument advanced by Larry Brooks in his New York Post column, who says the team’s inability to invest in the on-ice product and failing to spend up to the floor on NHL payroll is more than enough for Gary Bettman to step in and declare a State of Emergency with the franchise:

It is impossible to determine what the endgame here is for Wang. It can’t be to simply run out the clock over the next four years while further gutting the franchise’s infrastructure. If that truly is the objective, if the owner simply intends to devalue the franchise to the extent no one else would even consider buying it to keep in this area, then it is time for the commissioner to step in, exert his authority and save the Islanders from the crypt-keeper.

We’re not so sure there’s an endgame. The organization put their marbles in a megadevelopment that was iffy at best even in the best of games, briefly flirted with other cities, and now seems to be playing out the string. Brooks argues that any new owner needs to be committed to Long Island as a market, but that argument is a nonstarter: Nassau Coliseum is a financially obsolete facility that Wang is right about wanting to leave. The future of the franchise isn’t Bettman stepping in and demanding Wang put money into payroll: it’s Bettman stepping in and demand Wang run the team like a true business in order to maintain franchise values across the league. And if the market is demanding there be a better home for the franchise elsewhere, so be it.

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