KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Ending the Canadian portion of their busy training camp schedule, the Islanders left Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Monday for Kansas City for a heavily hyped preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings Tuesday night.
The buildup to the game in Kansas City has little to do with the actual hockey game, however, and more to do with the future of the organization.
Islanders owner Charles Wang has threatened to move the Islanders if he does not get approval for the Lighthouse project, a monumental development project that would provide the team with a new arena.
Kansas City, which boasts a brand-new arena, the Sprint Center, has become one of the most prominent suitors of the Islanders if the team relocates. Tonight's game will provide a way to gauge the level of interest and success the team could garner in a new market.
Although Wang originally was slated to appear in Kansas City for the game, he will remain on Long Island because of a somewhat controversial scheduling conflict. Earlier this month, the Town of Hempstead announced it would hold its zoning hearing on the same day as the game, forcing Wang to choose between abandoning his Kansas City trip and further stalling the Lighthouse project process.
While Wang engages in some political play back on Long Island, the Islanders will face the Kings in what could become their new arena. Despite the implications this particular preseason game holds for the team, however, Islanders coach Scott Gordon doesn't anticipate a problem with focus.
"I don't think anyone is worried about that. These guys are just worried about making the team. All of that stuff is out of the players' control," Gordon said. "I don't see anyone concerned about that right now."
That said, Gordon recognizes the team's need for an upgrade over the team's current venue - the rundown Nassau Coliseum - and what the game, as well as the zoning hearing Wang will attend on Long Island, symbolizes for the franchise.
"The fact that we went to a WHL junior team's building , and they have better facilities than ours, that says what I think about our [facilities]," Gordon said. "Long Island is a great place to be and it's a shame we don't have a first-rate facility. Obviously, the Lighthouse would be a facility a community would be glad to have."
Notes & quotes: F Pascal Morency was suspended for the remainder of the preseason and the first five games of the regular season, the NHL announced. Morency's suspension stemmed from Thursday's game in which Kyle Okposo suffered a concussion and left on a stretcher after a brutal open-ice hit from the Flames' Dion Phaneuf. Morency jumped the bench, chased after Phaneuf and was assessed a game misconduct. "I kind of felt there would be some suspension. I wasn't caught off guard by it," Gordon said. "I was more disappointed that Phaneuf didn't get anything."