Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky wants star John Tavares to make the move to the team’s new Belmont Park arena and stay there for the rest of his career.
“It’s our hope that when we do win, and we will win, that fifth Stanley Cup, he’s at center ice getting it and putting it over his head first,” Ledecky said in a radio interview with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on WFAN Thursday afternoon. “We want him to be an Islander for life. He is such a good leader in the clubhouse. He is probably the hardest working guy on the entire team. He’s completely focused on winning.”
Tavares is in the final year of his contract and opted against signing an extension last summer. He ranks third in the league in points (42) and fourth in goals (19) entering Thursday’s game against Anaheim.
“If John Tavares thinks he can win the Stanley Cup with the New York Islanders, he’s going to re-sign,” Ledecky said. “We’re trying to provide him with every reason to do so — beautiful new practice facility, moving the team back to Long Island, reembracing our fans on Long Island . . . John’s going to make up his mind on his timetable and the last thing I’m going to do as a co-owner of the New York Islanders is put any pressure on my great player.”
Ledecky praised Barclays Center, saying he wanted the team’s move to Brooklyn to work out. But after seeing the hardships and frustration that Long Island-based fans experienced, he said he decided it was time to move in another direction.
“The fans are our shareholders and we have to listen to our shareholders,” Ledecky said. “What we heard from the stakeholders, the fans, was that the commute was tough.”
Ledecky said he researched the modern sports arena extensively, jet setting around the world in hopes of creating the best possible home for the Islanders.
“I’ve spent the last three years traveling to every NHL and NBA arena in the United States,” he said. “I’ve gone overseas to see the developments that are happening in Europe and Asia, in terms of building stadiums. I’ve also looked at all the new football stadiums that have been built. We’ve been collecting data and now we can take all those innovations and put them into one arena. We’re completely focused on that.”
Ledecky declined to give a potential date for a Belmont opening, saying he hopes it’s as soon as possible. As far as the prospect for playing games in the interim at Nassau Coliseum, Ledecky said that decision will be left up to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
“I want what’s best for the New York Islanders,” Ledecky said. “We want to win a Stanley Cup . . . Since the New York Islanders moved to Barclays, they have the best home record in the National Hockey League . . . We’re playing well there, that’s part of the decision making process . . . Everything we do is done with one goal in mind, as any sports owner should have, which is win the championship.”
Despite the built-in rivalry between fan bases, Ledecky also said that it’s a good thing for the Islanders when the Rangers succeed.
“We want the Rangers to do well,” he said. “It’s great for the business of hockey in New York to have the Rangers doing well. Quite frankly, they’re the second team in New York that I’m going to be rooting for. It’s the same thing with all the other teams, too. We’re in a business together with 30 great owners and they’ve been incredibly helpful to us. The congratulations we got [Wednesday], up and down the NHL from all the team executives and all the team owners was very, very flattering. We hope we can set a new standard for how hockey is played in an arena for years to come.”