Two of Connecticut’s top elected officials wrote to the Islanders’ owners Friday to offer them the use of Hartford’s XL Center if they leave Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and are in need of a new home.
“Recognizing that many issues will complicate your decision-making, we would nonetheless like to offer Hartford’s XL Center as an option for your interim use,” wrote Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. “Of course, as we pursue the transformation of the building into today’s NHL standards, we would suggest the building as a long-term solution to your needs as well.”
Malloy and Bronin noted in the letter, which was addressed to Jon Ledecky, Scott Malkin and minority owner Charles Wang, that the city once was home to the NHL’s Whalers from 1979-97 and is eager to have another NHL team. The XL Center holds approximately 14,750 for hockey.
“This is a ready market anxious for an NHL team, eager to fill seats, buy merchandise, and support your team,” they wrote. “Your AHL affiliate is in nearby Bridgeport, allowing quick and easy access to your minor-league players, and represents a footing in Connecticut of the Islander franchise.”
The Islanders have been looking into building a new home arena in the metropolitan area since Ledecky and Malkin took control of the team from Wang in July. In a statement Friday night, the Islanders said: “The public letter that the Connecticut Governor’s office released earlier today was the first we had heard of the news. We are thrilled to be playing this season in front of our passionate New York Islanders fan base at Barclays Center, with the goal of making the playoffs. We look forward to another great year of New York Islanders hockey at Barclays Center next season.”
The Islanders have been looking into building a new home arena in the metropolitan area since Ledecky and Malkin took over control of the team from Wang in July.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking at the All-Star Game last weekend, said the Islanders are “committed” to New York.
Sources have said the Islanders have spoken to the Mets about building an arena next to Citi Field in Flushing and the New York Racing Association about an arena next to Belmont Racetrack in Elmont. Nassau Executive Ed Mangano said this week that he met with Ledecky in November to pitch a return to Nassau Coliseum, which is run by the same group that manages Barclays Center.
Newsday has reported that the Islanders and Barclays Center each can opt out of their 25-year license agreement next January. The Islanders can choose to leave after next season or the 2018-19 season; if Barclays Center were to opt out, the Islanders would leave after the 2018-19 season.
Even if the Islanders secure a site for a new building, experts say it’s all but impossible to have a new arena built by the time they would leave Barclays Center. That means the Islanders, in such a scenario, would need to find an interim home or work out an extension with Barclays Center.
The Islanders, who are in their second year at Barclays Center, have struggled with attendance in Brooklyn. Their average crowd of 12,773 this season ranks 29th in the NHL, ahead of only Carolina. Players also have complained about the ice, which Bettman described as a problem fundamental to the arena and “not something that can be fixed in the short term.”