Jon Ledecky expects his Islanders to play at Nassau Coliseum this season if teams can use their home arenas, though the co-owner is unsure whether fans will be able to enter the building.
Regardless, Ledecky believes staging a new season amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic is vital.
"I think we are so well led by Commissioner [Gary] Bettman," Ledecky said on Monday as he honored frontline workers at Long Island Jewish Medical Center’s Katz Women’s Hospital in New Hyde Park. "And if Gary believes that a season makes sense, then we all support Gary.
"I think, quite frankly, a season this year is very important because it gives fans hope. It gives them hope that we’re on the back end of this scourge. COVID is a scourge and we have to make sure we defeat it.
"Being able to watch hockey on television, to follow your favorite team, is one way of normalcy returning."
Ledecky presented Islanders jerseys with "Hero" on the nameplate to health-care workers and noted that Northwell Health has handled 100,000 COVID-19 cases. Port Washington’s Sandra Lindsay, a critical care nurse at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, became the first person in New York and possibly the U.S. to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14.
"These are unprecedented times and this is an opportunity for us to tell the community how grateful we are for these first-line workers at Northwell," Ledecky said.
On Sunday, the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association announced that a truncated 56-game regular season to begin on Jan. 13 had been ratified. The sides hope teams can play at their home arenas but noted the possibility of games being played in hub cities instead.
UBS Arena at Belmont Park is expected to open in November 2021. The Islanders’ residency at the Coliseum was thrown into question when Mikhail Prokhorov’s Onexim announced last June that it was shutting the building, but Florida-based developer Nick Mastroianni II has assumed the lease.
"If we’re going to play hockey in this area, it’s going to be at the Nassau Coliseum," Ledecky said.
It’s unclear, though, when or if fans will be allowed into the Coliseum.
"There’s no way to predict that and we’re going to rely on the leadership of Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo and the state government and the municipalities to guide us," Ledecky said. "We’re happy to be playing. But the safety and health of not only our fans but our players and the whole entire hockey operations team is most paramount."
Ledecky said that also applies to the construction of the team’s new arena, adding that it is a concern that rising COVID-19 numbers could force a second work shutdown.
"We’re always concerned for the health and safety of every single worker at the Belmont arena," Ledecky said. "And I’m going to be visiting there informally to thank each and every one of them for working hard at every step. We’ll never put a worker at risk in that situation."
As for a new deal with restricted free agent Mathew Barzal, the Islanders’ No. 1 center, Ledecky said that’s a question for president and general manager Lou Lamoriello.