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No Islanders regular season games at Nassau Coliseum next season

Fans line up to see Billy Joel perform

Fans line up to see Billy Joel perform at the renovated Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

The New York Islanders will not play four regular season games at the renovated Nassau Coliseum next season, despite an agreement to do so by developer Bruce Ratner in his 2013 lease with the county, according to National Hockey League Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.

The Islanders, who play at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, have made no requests to play regular season games at the Coliseum during the 2017-18 season, Daly said Tuesday. The league is expected to release its schedule next month.

Daly and multiple other sources said there have been discussions between the Islanders and Nassau Events Center, a subsidiary of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment that operates Barclays, for the Islanders to play one preseason game at the Coliseum next season. The 2013 lease calls for two Islanders preseason games.

The NHL has refused to commit to approving the six games: the four regular season and two preseason games. Daly said last year that the league has never discussed the plan with team owners.

“Nothing has changed,” Daly said Tuesday in an email.

The county’s lease with Ratner called for the Islanders to play four regular season games and two preseason games at the Coliseum for the next decade. The games were a major selling point with Nassau County officials as NEC bid against Madison Square Garden to renovate and manage the Coliseum.

The lease stipulates that if the Islanders “are unable or unwilling” to play the games, Ratner will have to pay Nassau an additional $1 million annually for each of the next five years, escalating to $1.1 million in years six through 10.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who has lobbied for the Islanders to return permanently to the Coliseum, declined to say whether the county will enforce the lease terms.

“Meaningful discussions with the Islanders are continuing,” Mangano said Tuesday. “That being said, NEC is contractually obligated to provide the games or pay the penalty.”

Mandy Gutmann, head of communications for Brooklyn Sports, said the company is in “discussions” with Islanders owners and is “focused on doing what is best for the fans and the franchise.”

County lawmakers, who approved the lease unanimously, expressed frustration.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said “we expect all parties to live up to the terms and conditions of the contract.”

Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) said “fans should expect . . . Mangano will enforce the terms of the lease.”

Ratner testified before the Nassau Legislature in 2013 that then-majority team owner Charles Wang was committed to the six games. “He wants it,” Ratner said of Wang. “He’s a good Long Island citizen and he wants that to happen.”

Wang is now a minority owner of the team, after selling an 85 percent share to Scott Malkin and Jonathan Ledecky. And in 2015 Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov purchased an 85 percent ownership of NEC from Ratner.

Ledecky last summer refused to commit to playing the six games, noting that the deal was negotiated by Ratner and Wang. “The key is neither party’s principal [representative] was there when that deal was made,” Ledecky said.

An Islanders spokesman declined to comment Tuesday.

Discussion of the six games comes as the Islanders are in flux over their future home.

The team is engaged in “good faith discussions” with Barclays management over the terms of their 25-year arena deal while waiting for the state to release a request for proposals to develop the land next to Belmont Racetrack. The Islanders are expected to bid on the Belmont RFP to build a new arena.

The Coliseum lease also stated that a minor league American Hockey League team would play its home games at the Coliseum with Ratner saying on several occasions that the Islanders’ minor league affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, would likely move to Nassau.

Newsday reported in February that NEC had shelved plans for the minor league team. Nassau officials said they would not enforce the AHL contract clause because it would lock the county into a long-term deal with a minor league franchise, and could complicate an effort to bring the Islanders back to the Coliseum.

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