Commentary

Brooklyn move restores Isles pride

Beleaguered franchise, fans will find new life in borough's billion-dollar arena

Updated: October 24, 2012, 9:15 PM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

Finally, a long-term deal for the Islanders that makes sense.

After years of toiling as the redheaded stepchild of the NHL, mocked for its antiquated facility, lack of on-ice success and general disarray, the beleaguered organization took a huge first step toward stabilizing the team and returning some cachet to what was once a proud and dynastic franchise.

Wednesday's announcement that the Islanders will move to Brooklyn in 2015 is a coup for the team, owner Charles Wang and all the fans who endured the emotional tumult that has surrounded the organization in recent years.

Not only will the Islanders remain in New York -- Barclays Center owner and developer Bruce Ratner deemed Wang a "hero" for spurning multiple offers to move the team out of state -- they'll be playing in a state-of-the-art facility for the next quarter century.

By signing a 25-year lease, an agreement Wang assured was "ironclad," the Islanders have put to rest all the nagging questions that have been dogging their ownership, hampering their offseason plans and frustrating the puck out of their loyal fan base.

When news first broke of the long-awaited move, many wondered if it was actually a substantive development or merely a temporary ploy for leverage. Some wondered whether the announcement was less about a landmark transition for the organization and more about gaining traction for a new facility in Nassau County.

But the days of trying to keep the team in Nassau County are over -- "Unfortunately we were unable to achieve that dream," Wang said -- and instead the unpredictable owner wisely decided that the time had come to give the team a legitimate shot at, well, being legitimate.

And by partnering with the Nets -- Wang said he will retain 100 percent ownership of the team -- the Islanders will capture some of the buzz emanating from Brooklyn's newest sporting attraction. Not since the team drafted teenage phenom John Tavares first overall at the 2009 draft has there been so much optimism that the franchise can turn itself around (the Islanders must have anticipated this, as they concurrently announced ticket packages are already available for the 2015-16 season).

Even New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg seemed excited about what the development could mean for the state of hockey in the area.

"It's a great day for our city," Bloomberg said. "Who said the rivalry between the Rangers and the Islanders couldn't get any bigger? It just did."

The new digs may stoke the allure of the rivalry -- and it should be noted the Rangers were aware of this move and had no issue with it -- and it certainly can't help but boost GM Garth Snow's sales pitch when trying to attract free agents to a team that has missed the playoffs the past five years.

After years of griping that the decrepit Nassau Coliseum handcuffed his abilities to lure the elite players in the league -- Snow has swung and missed on free agents such as Christian Ehrhoff, Paul Martin and Dan Hamhuis in recent years -- Snow said the Isles will be aggressive in their pursuit of top-shelf talent to bolster the team in the future.

If all his claims of the old building's deterrent powers are to be believed, Snow's job just got a lot easier.

Not one known for his public-speaking acumen -- he seems about as comfortable at the podium as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman did when asked about the league's current lockout -- Snow captured the sentiment of the day as succinctly as anyone.

"I can't wait," Snow said, "to see the puck drop on this new Brooklyn chapter."

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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