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Gary Bettman plays coy with location of potential Islanders home playoff games this season

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks about the groundbreaking

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks about the groundbreaking of the new Islanders arena at Belmont Park on Monday, Sept. 21, 2019 in Elmont. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Gary Bettman did not promise more Islanders playoff games at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum this spring, but he did not rule it out, either.

During an interview on WFAN on Friday with host Evan Roberts, an Islanders fan, the NHL commissioner was asked if he would be willing to promise that every postseason game would be at the Coliseum.

“Not yet,” Bettman said, then went on to explain the challenges of playing there.

Last year, the Islanders swept a first-round series playing home games there and were swept in a second-round series playing home games at Barclays Center.

“You hit the nail on the head: Nassau Coliseum is not a major-league facility, and it shouldn’t take you an hour to go to the bathroom,” Bettman said, repeating what Roberts had said about his experience there. “Those are all legitimate concerns.

“If the Islanders continue to build the way they have and go into the second [round], third and even the Stanley Cup Final, we’re going to have to figure out the logistics of what makes sense, because it’s difficult to host your major events, as the playoffs are for us, in a non-major-league facility.”

Bettman then pivoted to the arena that should solve the problem two seasons hence.

“The great news is, and Scott Malkin has been outstanding as the principal owner of the Islanders, the arena at Belmont is going to be great,” he said. “It’s in a great location. They’re doing everything the right way for that facility, and fans on Long Island are going to be in for an absolute treat when that building is done being built.”

As for Barclays, he said: “It’s a good thing Barclays was there, because Nassau Coliseum, before they freshened it up a little bit, was not capable of continuing to host the Islanders anymore. So it’s good that the Islanders had a place to go.

“But the Islanders belong out on the Island. I know technically, I grew up here, Brooklyn is geographically on Long Island, but the team belongs back in Nassau County, and as I said, Scott Malkin has been sensational. Governor [Andrew] Cuomo has been sensational in making this take place.

“Having the new LIRR station there is going to be great. This whole project, beyond just what the Islanders need and this being great for the Islanders, this is going to be great for Long Island.”

When Roberts told Bettman that it sounded as if he might be hinting at more playoff games at the Coliseum this season, the commissioner said: “No, I’m not telling you that. If I wanted to tell you something, I’d tell you.”

Roberts said fans can hope.

“Well, hope is good,” Bettman said. “We like hope.”

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