The Islander fan base has been dwindling since the 90’s and now it’s reached a crossroads. When the Lighthouse deal broke down, and I predicted it would, it wasn’t all about the money. As a matter of fact it never is. Long Islanders spend a lot of money; their taxes are among the highest in the country. Some folks pay $20,000 a year for a large house, to some, that’s a new car they can’t afford. So when you see phrases like “it’s just another $16 a year” or whatever the “new” number is, it just adds to the mistrust that has resided in Nassau County politics since I moved away in the late 80’s. Picture that family member who always asks you for money for various reasons. When do you decline? When do you draw a line in the sand?
I visit pretty frequently and I’ve been asking a lot of questions to a lot of NC residents and the answer that doesn’t come up all that much on social media, unless prodded, it’s not just the money, although some don’t want to pay another penny in taxes, to some the team is still not a playoff contender, the owner never really did anything to save Nassau Coliseum, and now apathy has set in to the point where some residents would rather see the Islanders go then pay for them to stay. To some the return isn’t enough, you hear about the jobs and the revenue but when these folks know their kids don’t care, they lose interest too. The lack of mass transit is the biggest culprit in the decay of this franchise and none of the Islanders owners ever corrected it over the years.
The team was last in the league in attendance averaging (11,059) last season. The numbers don’t lie, the place was once full and there were tons of fans all over the Island, now many of those fans have given up and some have taken their place but it’s a small vocal minority that remains. The fans have watched this team rebuild and talk about the future but the reality is they haven’t improved enough to spark the fan base.
Fans want ownership to spend money, and they have spent money over the years, but today the Islanders are just under the $40 million dollar mark. It’s currently the lowest payroll in the NHL, will they sign Alexei Yashin and raise that? Maybe, but to some the interest in him is turning off more fans than it might create. The cap floor is $48.3 million, the Islanders are asking the fans to go “all in” but they aren’t paying the league minimum and fans are paying attention to this.
Charles Wang has spent a lot of money, some foolishly, but some Long Islanders feel he will get rich off this and they will just have to spend more money on a bad team. It’s the reality of living on the Island.
I hope this passes for a host of reasons. I don’t want to see the Islanders leave but I still believe Brooklyn is a viable option even if this fails. The August 1st date could keep some voters away from the polls because of planned vacations etc. I can’t predict what the outcome will be with any real certainty. I can tell you predicting the WWE would be easier then predicting Long Island politics.
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