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NHL official: 'No indication' Islanders will play again at Coliseum

Mikhail Grabovski #84, Thomas Hickey #14 and Kyle

Mikhail Grabovski #84, Thomas Hickey #14 and Kyle Okposo #21 of the New York Islanders skate off the ice after a 4-3 loss against the Winnipeg Jets at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014 in Uniondale, New York. Credit: Jim McIsaac

A top National Hockey League official Thursday cast doubt on Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's suggestion that construction of a practice facility and office space for the New York Islanders, along with improvements to the Nassau Coliseum, could lure the team back to Long Island.

Mangano announced in his State of the County address Wednesday that Nassau was finalizing plans with the Islanders to construct a practice rink and corporate offices for the team at Cantiague Park in Hicksville.

Mangano said the projects would "get the attention" of the NHL, "cement the Islanders in Nassau" and "provide hope" that the team, which is moving to Brooklyn's Barclays Center next season, will return to the Coliseum one day.

But Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, said Thursday, "We have been given no indication by the Islanders, or by anyone else, that the move to Brooklyn is or will be temporary."

In 2012, the Islanders signed a 25-year contract to play at the Barclays Center beginning in the 2015-16 season.

The agreement to move to Brooklyn came a year after a public referendum to borrow up to $400 million in taxpayer money to build a new arena was rejected by Nassau voters. An earlier effort to privately fund a new arena ran aground after failing to secure zoning approvals from the Town of Hempstead.

Developer Bruce Ratner, who owns the Barclays Center, is spending $229 million to renovate the Coliseum and build a sports-and-entertainment complex adjacent to the arena. Ratner will control all programming decisions at the renovated Coliseum, according to his contract with the county.

"We are excited to have the Islanders in Brooklyn starting next season and are looking forward to a long-term relationship with them in the borough," Barry Baum, chief communications officer for the Barclays Center, said Thursday.

Businessmen Jonathan Ledecky and Scott Malkin, who became the Islanders' minority owners last year and who will own controlling interest in the team in 2016, bought the club with the expectation it would play in Brooklyn.

Barclays is expected to have a capacity of 15,795 for Islanders games, the second-smallest in the NHL after Winnipeg. The renovated Coliseum would seat a maximum of 13,000 fans.

"It's not a sufficient arena for an NHL team," Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economics professor at Smith College in Massachusetts, said of the Coliseum.

Joel Evans, a sports marketing professor at Hofstra University, said he doubts "the NHL will have another franchise on Long Island for the foreseeable future, if ever." He cited factors including the Islanders' long-term contract with Barclays and the presence of teams such as the New York Rangers in the area.

Islanders officials did not return calls for comment.

Nassau legislative Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said "it would be nice" if the team moved back to the renovated arena.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said "that ship has sailed. We squandered that opportunity and I don't think they are coming back."

Jon Kaiman, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state oversight board in control of the county's finances, said "continuing Long Island's association with the Islanders has value. NIFA would want to see a cost and benefit analysis to see if this is a financial boon or burden to the county's bottom line."

Mangano has released no financial details about the Islanders' proposed practice rink and corporate offices other than to say they would come at no cost to taxpayers. The contract will be submitted to the county legislature for approval.

"When the contract is complete, we will release these details," said Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin.

The Islanders' lease with Nassau expires July 31. Newsday reported last month the team and its lease partner, SMG, owe the county more than $3.6 million in unpaid rent, utilities and revenue sharing.

Cantiague already has an indoor ice skating rink, which served as the Islanders' practice facility from 1979 to 1992. The rink underwent extensive renovation in 2010. County officials declined to comment on whether the new facility would replace Cantiague's existing rink.

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