Garth Snow said he was attending yesterday's Lighthouse Project rally as a member of the Long Island community, but given his position - general manager of Long Island's only major professional franchise - he has more of a vested interest in the development than most.
The Islanders are trying to rebuild their team and in the process they have plucked top prospects from the past two NHL drafts. But, the influx of new talent has pretty much ended there. Saddled with Nassau Coliseum, the league's most out-of-date venue, Snow feels hamstrung when trying to lure high-profile free agents in the offseason.
"Absolutely," Snow said when asked if he's limited because of the team's inferior venue. "We're not on a level playing field in that regard."
Snow made this analogy when trying to describe his disadvantage:
"If you get 100 dollars to spend on a hotel and you get the choice between the Motor Lodge and The Ritz-Carlton, which one are you going to use your 100 dollars to stay in?" Snow asked. "In a salary-cap world, it's all about the facilities."
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With the salary-cap limitations and tough economic times, Snow said the organization could greatly benefit from the appeal of a new arena.
"We have to treat our organization like a small-market team. A project like this would bring a totally different dynamic to our organization," Snow said. "I want a state-of-the-art building that allows us to get key free agents or keep our own free agents-to-be."
Josh Bailey, whom the Islanders selected in the first round of last year's draft, said a new place to play could definitely assist in attracting top-tier talent.
"I think it will definitely make things easier. Guys sometimes come in and stay at the [Uniondale] Marriott and only see this part of town," Bailey said. "I think the Lighthouse would show them more of what Long Island is about."
After his first year in the league, Bailey, who also attended yesterday's rally with teammate Joel Rechlicz, got to compare the Coliseum with several other arenas around the league which provide a much more modern look.
"I love the rink, it's still home," Bailey said. "But I think it could use a face-lift and do our team a lot of good."