Right now the Nassau County people who collect our money are trying
to figure out how to spend our money to build an arena that will delight
these Millstone / Gluckstern guys. Better put fishhooks in our pockets.
And, please be careful, it's our hearts.
First, we know that Tom Gulotta, the county executive, wants to
develop the 70 acres of Hub around the Nassau Coliseum as an
entertainment and convention center with the Islanders as the
centerpiece, and it sounds like a good idea. And Gulotta is intent on
getting it done while the economy is strong.
Then we have to agree that the Islanders need a new arena or accept
being a small-market team.
Let's look at the record. Better somebody should buy the team first.
Mort Certilman, who represents the county for development of the Hub
project, says I'm dealing with "druthers" while he's stuck with reality.
He's trying to pin down whether these elusive Millstone / Gluckstern
guys are staying or going.
I'm told that the Islanders almost "can't" leave. The league wants to
stay in the market, but there's always a way to break a lease. And the
worst scenario for Gulotta and his Republican Party would be to build a
new arena, have the Islanders leave and be stuck with a dark building.
But can't we resist these Millstone / Gluckstern guys? Do we forget
so soon that the hot breath of their welcome-to-Nassau kisses was hardly
cooled when Millstone was panting at the feet of the National Football
League with $600 million, $800 million to buy the Browns or the
Redskins. He had that much commitment to us.
His performance with the Islanders was so transparent with what
amounts to chump change that the NFL didn't want him even as the highest
bidder for the Redskins. "You're asking, `If I had a choice of
somebody,' and I don't have that choice," Certilman said yesterday. "I'm
not saying, if I had that choice I wouldn't take these people.
Personality doesn't enter into it."
These Millstone / Gluckstern guys came as white knights after the
trauma of the Spano fiasco and have made things worse. Now they want us
to accept them on good faith. They've done nothing to earn our faith.
They've said we should stomach their lousy meals and, if we buy enough
of them, then they'll serve better meals. Isn't it the other way around?
"And isn't it `Maybe' the hamburgers will get better," said Art Feeney,
who cares enough about the Islanders to publish the 7th Man newsletter.
The only promise these Millstone / Gluckstern guys have kept is David
Seldin's threat to turn the Islanders into a minor-league franchise, if
they didn't get their way. Seldin is still part of the equation.
Management has been so odious that it obscures the job Mike Milbury
has done. When these Millstone / Gluckstern guys came in Milbury
pointed to Zigmund Palffy and Bryan Berard as cornerstones. Only three
seasons in the history of the franchise were worse than the one that
Berard is gone and what has held up the Palffy trade is that these
Millstone / Gluckstern guys want more. That's what prompted Gulotta to
call them "pigs at the trough" in the first place. Well, thankfully
these Millstone / Gluckstern guys are out of the negotiations for the
70-acre bonanza. Certilman said their plan was too dense for suburbia
- they wanted too much, remember - and the county rejected them.
Certilman welcomes competition for the development. Good deal.
But what about the Islanders? The Islanders of the four Stanley Cups
was one of the great sports dynasties of all time, now debased to the
ninth of nine franchises in the metropolitan area. In spite of a
seasonal TV contract of about $14.8 million - triple that of most
hockey franchises - it is a small-market situation. It has no
concession or parking revenue and even if Long Island offers three
million affluent parishioners, the building has little luxury space.
Better that be addressed by another owner who'd grasp the legacy of
Al Arbour and his guys. I like Bob Gutkowski's idea to make part owners
He'd have Joel sing the national anthem three or four times a year.
"Do we want these people?" Certilman said. "If I had to deal with
[Howard] Milstein - whether he's a good guy or a bad guy, or what the
fans say he's done to the team - my job is to develop a new arena. We
have nobody else to deal with."
Gutkowski hasn't given up on buying, but these Millstone / Gluckstern
guys paid too much and expect to get it back. Certilman said don't sell
Milstein short. "I think they recognize, in the long run, to make money
they have to put out a good product . . . I'll push the county's
position, not his."
If we're stuck with these Millstone / Gluckstern guys - and I
expect that they'll stay two years after the arena is in place and then
try to take a big profit - Certilman should seal the loophole of
escape I'm told they want. They always want more.
I can't buy Certilman's idea that "fans should go to see the
Islanders because fans love their team." No, unrequited love's a bore.
Don't talk of love, show me.