The article, entitled "Slippery Surface for Islanders," paints a dire picture of a franchise that is losing value and about which nobody seems to care. I will say first off that the writer did not present a full picture of the Islanders' financial situation. The writer cites a 3%, or $5.6 million, drop in the team's value in 2009 as compared to 2008. The team is now valued at $149 million, $46 million less than Charles Wang paid for the franchise in 2000 (in absolute numbers, not counting for inflation), and, as the paper made sure to mention, "third from the bottom" in the league.
The picture is not pretty, but there are pieces left out. The author does not mention that 14 of the 30 National Hockey League franchises lost value in the past year, largely as a result of the bad economy. In addition, the author also forgets to mention that, percentage-wise, 7 teams lost more value than the Islanders (including the Colorado Avalanche, whose value plummeted 11% after a disappointing season).
The author then hits all the tired buzzwords that fans of the Islanders are so used to hearing, including the attendance that's been as low as 6,000 on weekday games. He also falsely accuses Mr. Wang of threatening to move the Islanders to Kansas City if the Lighthouse Project is not approved. It's true that the owner has promised to "explore other options," but there is not an active threat to move the team to any specific location.
There is also a quote from John Meindl, president of Sportsbrandedmedia, a sports marketing company in Rockville Centre, that hits at the crux of the issue. Mr. Meindl claimed Long Island lost its love affair with the Islanders shortly after the dynasty in the early 1980's, saying that, if the Islanders left, "there wouldn't be a lot of sleepless nights."
I had a visceral reaction to this at first, but, in all honesty, you can't blame Mr. Meindl for drawing such a conclusion. Let's take a look at a few specific issues:
- 2 weeks ago, an election that will largely determine the fate of the Lighthouse Project was held. Turnout was pathetically low, the Lighthouse was not a galvanizing issue, and project supporters did not play a key role in any races.
- The New York Islanders are showing signs of life, yet fans still do not go to games.
- Time and again, including the example of the Hartford Whalers, teams have moved, and high-level politicians have not paid for it with their jobs.
- Now that the project has hit a rough patch, people are rightly clamoring for another event, such as a rally. To be honest, I don't want to schedule any kind of a rally unless there's an assurance people will come.
If we want to be taken seriously, and if we want the Lighthouse Project to happen, we can't sit back and wait for people to take us seriously. We got this process moving along, and we made the Town of Hempstead take notice, because we organized and positively advocated for the project. We can't sit back now when there is still so much left to do.
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