NHL's Bettman: Get Isles to Brooklyn 'as soon as possible'
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, echoing Islanders owner Charles Wang's comments last week, said he would like the Islanders to leave for their new home in Brooklyn "as soon as possible," but said the team is prepared to play out its lease, which expires after the 2014-2015 season.
"I'd like to see them in the newer building as soon as possible," said Bettman, speaking at the Associated Press Sports Editors commissioners meeting," but I believe the Islanders -- not believe, I know -- they're prepared to fulfill their obligations under their burdensome lease. If Nassau County was inclined to let them go earlier I know they would go."
Wang said last week the team would like to leave the Nassau Coliseum a year early but would honor the lease. Wang added that no such talks had begun with Nassau County.
Bettman said the league is excited about the move to the Barclays Center and he thinks it will revitalize the franchise and its fan base.
"There are incredibly exciting things going on in Brooklyn," he said. "You see what has been accomplished with the opening of the Barclays Center and the relocation of the Nets. The Islanders are telling me that they're getting extraordinarily strong feedback from their fans and their season ticket holders who are going to make the move with them and there's a great deal of excitement about the fact that the team is finally getting a first-class facility to play in.
"If you talked to [general manager] Garth Snow and Charles Wang, they will tell you that their ability to get free agents was impacted by the fact that why would you want to play in that arena 41 times a year when you can go to other places."
Barclays will address some hockey related issues, Bettman said.
"It wasn't constructed for hockey and so the seating capacity will be around 15,000. In the absence of a prospect of a new arena in Nassau County, this, thank goodness, is a wonderful alternative and I know Charles is very excited as is the entire Islander organization."
As for the NHL's financial condition after losing half the season because of a lockout, Bettman said, "We're having a remarkably, incredibly and for us gratefully strong season. We're playing at 97.4 percent of capacity. Television ratings overwhelmingly are up in USA and Canada, national and local. Some clubs up not just double digits but triple digits percentage in ratings. Attendance has been strong and the competitive balance which is something that we have consistently prided ourselves on has been remarkable . . . The business has been strong this season and we continue to believe that we are in for continued growth."