Will The NY Islanders Return to Nassau Coliseum?

New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson (29) watches the puck slip by Washington Capital goaltender Brandon Holtby (70) on a shot from John Tavares (not pictured) for the opening goal (Photo by Joe Nuzzo).

The New York Islanders may be skating from their new home at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and are considering a return to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, according to officials and reports.

Barclays financial projections indicated that the NHL team’s revenue wasn’t accounted for after the 2018-19 season, which suggests that the arena and the Islanders are preparing to part ways, Bloomberg reported Monday. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano confirmed that he met with Islanders co-owner Jonathan Ledecky on Nov. 17. to discuss the team’s possible move back to Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. The news has set off a wave of hopeful speculation.

“The Islanders are weighing their options,” said Brian Nevin, Mangano’s spokesman, although neither representatives for the Islanders nor Barclays—which will also operate the renovated coliseum when it reopens in April—would comment on the latest development.

The team moved in 2015 to Brooklyn from the coliseum, which had been their first and only home up until that point, following years of unsuccessful bids to renovate the arena and keep the Islanders in Nassau.

Bloomberg noted that fan attendance at Islanders games has sunk to the third-lowest in the National Hockey League. Fans have complained about the sight lines and players have complained about the quality of the ice. But if either the team or the arena exercise their option to break the lease, it is far from clear where the Islanders would drop the puck next.

Complicating the hope for the Islanders to return to Uniondale is that part of the coliseum’s $270-million renovation included reducing the seating capacity from 16,000 to 13,000 seats for hockey, 13,500 for basketball and 14,500 for concerts, with the option to “flex up,” Barclays has said. The smallest hockey arena in the league has 15,015 seats.

Further confusing the mystery of where the team will go is that Mangano, who pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges last year, hasn’t said if he’d seek a third term, so the reported negotiations for the team’s return to the county-owned building come as there may be a change in administration after November’s election.

Two of the three Democratic candidates vying for county executive have said they would welcome the team back to Uniondale.

“I want nothing more than for the Islanders to return to where they belong: Nassau County,” said Nassau Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), the Democratic nominee in the county exec race. “But Ed Mangano can’t be serious, and frankly, I don’t trust those who helped drive the Isles away in the first place. We’ve watched for years as career politicians effectively escorted our Islanders right out of town.”

One of her two declared Democratic primary challengers, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, said he would love to have the team back.

“Will create private investment fund to buy Isles with new facility,” Maragos posted on Twitter, although there is no indication that the team is for sale.

Curran’s other Democratic challenger, Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), evoked New York’s former Democratic Senator from the 1960s, Robert F. Kennedy, in his comment.

“The complex and challenging negotiations to bring our Islanders home will require a County Executive with toughness, drive and dedication,” said Lavine. “The team’s loss was inexcusable.  Robert F. Kennedy used to say that an error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.  He was right.  Those of us who believe in our Nassau County community now have the opportunity to correct this glaring error.”