Make Them Own Up

Right now the Nassau County people who collect our money are trying

to figure out how to spend our money to build an arena that will delight

these Millstone / Gluckstern guys. Better put fishhooks in our pockets.

And, please be careful, it's our hearts.

First, we know that Tom Gulotta, the county executive, wants to

develop the 70 acres of Hub around the Nassau Coliseum as an

entertainment and convention center with the Islanders as the

centerpiece, and it sounds like a good idea. And Gulotta is intent on

getting it done while the economy is strong.

Then we have to agree that the Islanders need a new arena or accept

being a small-market team.

Let's look at the record. Better somebody should buy the team first.

Mort Certilman, who represents the county for development of the Hub

project, says I'm dealing with "druthers" while he's stuck with reality.

He's trying to pin down whether these elusive Millstone / Gluckstern

guys are staying or going.

I'm told that the Islanders almost "can't" leave. The league wants to

stay in the market, but there's always a way to break a lease. And the

worst scenario for Gulotta and his Republican Party would be to build a

new arena, have the Islanders leave and be stuck with a dark building.

But can't we resist these Millstone / Gluckstern guys? Do we forget

so soon that the hot breath of their welcome-to-Nassau kisses was hardly

cooled when Millstone was panting at the feet of the National Football

League with $600 million, $800 million to buy the Browns or the

Redskins. He had that much commitment to us.

His performance with the Islanders was so transparent with what

amounts to chump change that the NFL didn't want him even as the highest

bidder for the Redskins. "You're asking, `If I had a choice of

somebody,' and I don't have that choice," Certilman said yesterday. "I'm

not saying, if I had that choice I wouldn't take these people.

Personality doesn't enter into it."

These Millstone / Gluckstern guys came as white knights after the

trauma of the Spano fiasco and have made things worse. Now they want us

to accept them on good faith. They've done nothing to earn our faith.

They've said we should stomach their lousy meals and, if we buy enough

of them, then they'll serve better meals. Isn't it the other way around?

"And isn't it `Maybe' the hamburgers will get better," said Art Feeney,

who cares enough about the Islanders to publish the 7th Man newsletter.

The only promise these Millstone / Gluckstern guys have kept is David

Seldin's threat to turn the Islanders into a minor-league franchise, if

they didn't get their way. Seldin is still part of the equation.

Management has been so odious that it obscures the job Mike Milbury

has done. When these Millstone / Gluckstern guys came in Milbury

pointed to Zigmund Palffy and Bryan Berard as cornerstones. Only three

seasons in the history of the franchise were worse than the one that

just ended.

Berard is gone and what has held up the Palffy trade is that these

Millstone / Gluckstern guys want more. That's what prompted Gulotta to

call them "pigs at the trough" in the first place. Well, thankfully

these Millstone / Gluckstern guys are out of the negotiations for the

70-acre bonanza. Certilman said their plan was too dense for suburbia

- they wanted too much, remember - and the county rejected them.

Certilman welcomes competition for the development. Good deal.

But what about the Islanders? The Islanders of the four Stanley Cups

was one of the great sports dynasties of all time, now debased to the

ninth of nine franchises in the metropolitan area. In spite of a

seasonal TV contract of about $14.8 million - triple that of most

hockey franchises - it is a small-market situation. It has no

concession or parking revenue and even if Long Island offers three

million affluent parishioners, the building has little luxury space.

Better that be addressed by another owner who'd grasp the legacy of

Al Arbour and his guys. I like Bob Gutkowski's idea to make part owners

of Long Island celebrities like Billy Joel and Alec Baldwin and such.

He'd have Joel sing the national anthem three or four times a year.

"Do we want these people?" Certilman said. "If I had to deal with

[Howard] Milstein - whether he's a good guy or a bad guy, or what the

fans say he's done to the team - my job is to develop a new arena. We

have nobody else to deal with."

Gutkowski hasn't given up on buying, but these Millstone / Gluckstern

guys paid too much and expect to get it back. Certilman said don't sell

Milstein short. "I think they recognize, in the long run, to make money

they have to put out a good product . . . I'll push the county's

position, not his."

If we're stuck with these Millstone / Gluckstern guys - and I

expect that they'll stay two years after the arena is in place and then

try to take a big profit - Certilman should seal the loophole of

escape I'm told they want. They always want more.

I can't buy Certilman's idea that "fans should go to see the

Islanders because fans love their team." No, unrequited love's a bore.

Don't talk of love, show me.

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