Jul 22, 2011

Opinion: What If a Lease Was Signed Elsewhere?

This week we have seen a very interesting rumor manifest on the popular Isles message board, Islanermania. In a nutshell, a poster who works for the parking staff was in a meeting where a top Isles executive slipped and said the Isles would be signing a lease with another municipality, declining to specify if it was local, regional, or even international (kidding). Without discussing the merits of the rumor itself, as that is not what we do since we have no inside information, I thought a discussion of the strategy of agreeing to some sort of Memorandum of Understanding would be interesting and relevant.

First, let's look at the perspective of the league before we get into the implications of a vote. The Islanders, as we all know, are tied into a lease with Nassau County for another four seasons. Essentially unbreakable, the Isles have announced countless times they will honor the lease, but nothing more. Hypothetically, if the Isles agree to an MOU with Quebec City or Kansas City, they instantly become a lame-duck franchise. For four years. The NHL already has a lame-duck franchise in Phoenix, so why would they to essentially authorize another? That's why if this rumor has legs, it would be my guess that it is with a local municipality, such as Queens or Suffolk County.

Chris Botta came out and tweeted the Isles denied the report, as they should have regardless if this rumor is true or false. Obviously, news like this would have great implications on the August 1 vote. Especially if there is an MOU with a local municipality. Why would people come out and vote if there is no urgency? What the Isles would have is a contingency plan, which would be their first one after all this political banter. If this rumor is true, the Isles should come out on August 2 (or soon after) and start to put the pressure on the politicians. This especially works if the municipality is local. Would it hurt Nassau County more if they left the county for Queens or for Houston, Texas? Easy one. The county gets kicked in the gut if they move, but they get kicked somewhere less favorable if it's right next door.

Still, this puts even more pressure on the vote a week from Monday. It is so important that this referendum passes, and if it does, that along with an MOU with a neighboring county could finally give the Isles enough leverage to swing a deal in their home. Time will tell, but for now we'll continue to playfully speculate. But make no bones, August 1 is still one of the most important dates in Isles history. We have the chance to be heard, so let's be heard.


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