It’s the end of an era.
Sixteen years ago, Charles Wang and then-partner Sanjay Kumar bought the New York Islanders for $187.5 million. When they bought the team, Wang talked of a future that would include years of greatness on the ice. Soon after, he began talking about plans for a gloriously new Nassau Coliseum. He was going to be the team’s savior – and fans revered him from Day 1.
"We want to make the New York Islanders the world-class sports franchise that our community deserves, wants and needs," Wang said in April of 2000. "This is no easy task."
Fans talked of having hope for the first time in a long time.
Thursday is expected to be Wang’s last day as the team’s majority owner, nearly two years after he sold the team for a reported $485 million. Come Friday, he’ll own just 15 percent of the team, while Jonathan Ledecky and Scott Malkin take over the rest.
But while plenty has changed since Wang became Islanders owner, nothing has followed his planned script.
The New York Islanders didn’t win a Stanley Cup under Wang’s watch. They earned playoff spots in seven out of Wang’s 14 seasons at the helm, but won just one round — this past spring.
And, the arena. Despite more than a decade of trying, Wang was never able to build a new Nassau Coliseum – never mind the vast, $3.8 billion mixed-use project he had proposed around the arena. As Wang completes his stewardship of the team, the arena – and the land around it – sit empty. Wang moved the Islanders to Brooklyn, and it’s now up to developer Bruce Ratner and billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to renovate the Coliseum on a far smaller scale than what Wang envisioned.
When Wang bought the Islanders, there wasn’t any talk of zoning or building heights, of traffic or density. There wasn’t anyone saying no to Wang’s plans and visions. There were hopes and dreams, images of Stanley Cups and a bright new place to play in Nassau County. Sixteen years later, we’re left to wonder what might have been had the talk of hope not turned into a more barren reality.
In some ways, little has changed since Wang’s celebratory entrance into the world of hockey. For a taste of the times then and now, here’s a look at what the Newsday editorial board wrote after Wang took over in 2001. (SPOILER ALERT: We didn’t quite get what we hoped for.)
This originally appeared in The Point, the editorial board’s daily newsletter about New York politics. Click here to subscribe.