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NHL will have final say on Islanders' home playoff games, Gary Bettman says

The commissioner said there hasn't been a decision made on where the team's games will be played next season.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a press

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a press conference during the NHL All Star Week at the McEnery Convention Center on Friday in San Jose, Calif. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

SAN JOSE, Calif. — If Islanders fans had a vote about where potential playoff home games would be played, it would be a landslide. If opposing players had their choice, the result likely would be just as definitive in the other direction. As it is, though, National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday that the league will have the final say.

He did not indicate whether he is leaning either way, nor would he comment on whether the Islanders will be able to play all of their home games at Nassau Coliseum next season.

“It will be a collaborative decision among the Islanders, the Barclays — their landlord, whether it’s in Nassau or in Barclays Center — and the league,” Bettman said during his annual state of the NHL news conference during All-Star Weekend. “I suppose the league has final say, but at the appropriate time, all parties will get together and figure out what the best way to approach the playoffs would be — if the Islanders make the playoffs.”

Fans have expressed great hope that the games would be at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, where the energy and noise for regular-season games has been exceptional and where the Islanders have a 5-1-1 record in their return this season. But Barclays Center has greater seating capacity and many more luxury suites, which produce high revenue.

Long Islanders also have been pushing, especially through social media, to move all home games to the Coliseum next season, up from the half-schedule being held in 2018-19 in the team’s original home. When he was asked about that, Bettman said, “We haven’t focused on where the games will be played next season.”

All of this, of course, revolves around the plan to build a permanent home for the Islanders on the grounds of Belmont Park. Residents have made public their objections, on the basis of traffic and other concerns, at hearings recently. But the commissioner remains optimistic about the initiative.

“The reports that we’re getting on the Belmont project are that everyone seems to be on track. We hope to have a groundbreaking in May or June,” he said.

The Coliseum has been a sensitive issue during the Islanders’ surprising rise to first place in the Metropolitan Division this season. After experiencing the atmosphere and advantage it brings to the home team, Barry Trotz said right after the Dec. 1 return that the building would be worth about 12 points over the course of an entire season.

All-Star defenseman Seth Jones of the Blue Jackets, a member of the visiting team in that first regular-season game back on Long Island (and son of Popeye Jones, who was an assistant coach of the Nets at Barclays Center), addressed the factor without having specifically been asked. During media day here Thursday night, he was questioned about what has put the Islanders on top at the break and said: “Have you seen that building? Come on!”

But the economics of the situation offer a different picture for Barclays, which operates both arenas, and the league.

Fastest Skater contest. Kendall Coyne, a member of the U.S. Women's National team, was named as a last-minute entrant in the Fastest Skater contest during the Skills Competition Friday night. Coyne was chosen by the Avalanche to replace Nathan MacKinnon, whose bruised foot caused him to pull out of the event that also included Mathew Barzal of the Islanders. Coyne had been scheduled to be one of several non-competing female presenters in another skills category. Connor McDavid of the Oilers won the contest for a third time. Mathew Barzal of the Islanders finished third, behind the Sabres' Jack Eichel.

New tracking system to debut at All-Star Game

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s chief topic during his annual state of the NHL address Friday was the league’s new high-tech player and puck tracking system that will be used in all games next season.

It will be previewed during the telecast of the All-Star Game (actually a three-on-three tournament) Saturday night.

He said it “can track pucks at the rate of 2,000 times per second with inch-level accuracy. It will instantaneously detect passes, shots and positioning precisely. It will be equally accurate in tracking players, their movements, their speed, their time on ice, you name it.”

The system uses sensors on each player’s uniform and a chip in each puck. In testing during two recent regular-season games, including the Rangers’ visit to Las Vegas, data showed that Brent Burns of the Sharks and Jonathan Marchessault of the Golden Knights each skated more than three miles and that William Karlsson of Vegas skated faster than 20 miles per hour.

Said Bettman, “We think many of our fans, especially the innovation generations, the millennials and Gen Z, are going to love this new frontier.”

— MARK HERRMANN

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