In his first public comments as a future team owner, Jon Ledecky asserted that saying hello to Brooklyn does not mean saying goodbye to anyone. "I don't want to lose one single fan of the New York Islanders," he said after a news conference at Nassau Coliseum Wednesday. "I want them to come and migrate with us if at all possible."
Ledecky and partner Scott Malkin were formally introduced as the future majority owners of the franchise that is playing one final season on Long Island. The men, who will be minority partners of Charles Wang for two years before switching roles with Wang, praised the Islanders' tradition and the fan base's passion.
The new owners know that many Long Islanders are reticent about making the longer drive or taking a change-at-Jamaica train ride to Barclays Center. They have heard the speculation that the team will be seeking a mostly new audience. Wang, during his remarks Wednesday, said that "some of" the current fans would follow the team to Brooklyn.
But Ledecky prefers the "all aboard" approach.
"I think the fans will follow us if we follow them," he said. "That's the most important thing. We have to make sure that behind the scenes, we're working with all the different authorities to make it a breeze to come from this part of Long Island to Brooklyn. If we do that, then the fans follow with us. I think we need to be doing things that are effective to make that a reality."
Whether the Islanders will return to Long Island for anything other than practice is another matter. Bruce Ratner, the Barclays Center developer, had promised when he won the right to renovate and operate the Coliseum that the team would play up to six games there.
When asked specifically about the team's future connection to a revamped Coliseum, Ledecky spoke glowingly about the building. "I love the Coliseum. The old barn, to me, has the best views in the NHL. This is a fabulous place to play hockey. Hockey players love to play here. It's a special place."
He added that fans have been sharing their feelings, ranging from "I remember my dad buying me a Klondike bar to I caught a puck during practice when I was 10 years old."
Yet all he chose to say about the team's future connection with its 43-year home was to offer this advice to fans: "Bring your kids to Nassau Coliseum one last time, or many times, as we try to put a competitive team on the ice. Have that memory."
Regardless of the location, the new owners sounded adamant about maintaining the bond with loyal followers. What is the best way? Malkin said, "I like Jon's answer from before: A fifth ring."