The Islanders' planned trip to China for training camp in September is off.
Although the nine-day trip was met with initial approval from the league and NHL Players' Association, it recently hit a snag regarding procedural requirements.
As they have done in several similar situations in the past, the NHLPA wanted to send representatives to China before the Islanders embarked on their trip to make sure all facilities complied with NHL standards.
Although an innocuous and reasonable request on behalf of the NHLPA, multiple sources said Islanders owner and China native Charles Wang objected to the request because he feared it might cause problems with the Chinese. The deal subsequently fell through last Friday.
"It's disappointing," Islanders general manager Garth Snow said. "The players, their wives and girlfriends, everyone was looking forward to this trip. It was an opportunity of a lifetime to go over and have an experience that otherwise would've been unavailable to our team."
Sources said Wang also bristled at the NHLPA's request for a donation to the NHLPA that would be given back to help fund children's hockey programs in China, although the request was a mere "suggestion," according to NHLPA spokesperson Jonathan Weatherdon. Weatherdon also said the suggested donation (for which a sum was never even named) was not a make-or-break element of the terms.
Weatherdon confirmed both requests but said the Islanders agreed upon these conditions when the deal was struck back in January.
"When an agreement is made, we expect the team to live up to the terms," Weatherdon said when reached by phone yesterday.
Because of their reluctance to comply with the requests--primarily the NHLPA's desire to pre-approve facilities-- the Islanders abstained from putting the money down for a deposit that was due for the trip Friday.
The trip, originally scheduled for Sept. 14-23, included stops in Beijing and Shanghai as well as day trips to Harbin and Qiqihar in the Heilongjang province, where Wang has initiatives already in place to provide hockey instruction, facilities and education for Chinese youths.
Wang is said to be "heartbroken" and deeply disappointed that the plans fell through.
The Islanders must now focus on putting together an alternative training camp schedule, and fairly soon. At this point the top two options are to either return to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where they held training camp last September or remain on Long Island.
"We'll have to regroup," Snow said. "There are a couple of options we have and it would be premature to comment on it since we just found this out Friday. We'll get to work on Plan B."