Are Islanders Brooklyn Bound Or Is Quebec Calling?

  • Monday, June 18, 2012 8:19 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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The New York Islanders need a new home. The glory years at Nassau Coliseum when the Isles were hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup on a regular basis are long gone. The 40-year-old arena in Uniondale (opened February 11, 1972) is showing its age. Simply put, it is not fit for a modern day NHL franchise. How bad is it? Last March it was reported that claims of asbestos contamination were being investigated. Even if the New York Department of Labor concludes that the air is safe, who wants to go to a hockey game in a building with an asbestos problem?

And it isn't just asbestos. The arena is the second oldest in the NHL after Madison Square Garden, which opened on February 11, 1968. MSG also had asbestos fall from the ceiling last year, postponing a Knicks basketball game. But the world's most famous arena is in the middle of a massive $850 million, three-summer renovation project. Nassau is also the second smallest arena (16,250 seating capacity) after the home of the Winnipeg Jets, MTS Centre (15,015).

So Nassau needs to go. But where will the Isles go? There are a few possibilities. First, it should be noted that the lease runs until 2015, so barring health inspectors declaring the building unsafe due to asbestos contamination, the Isles could very well stay there another three years. Back in 2004 Isles owner Charles Wang proposed the Lighthouse Project, which would have have built a new arena on the same site along with housing, hotels, restaurants, stores and offices. Unfortunately for Islanders fans who want to keep the team on Long Island, Nassau County voters struck down the project last year.

So unless Wang pulls off a miracle, three years from now the Islanders will likely no longer be residing on the Island. Well, at least not in the suburbs. Did you know that the New York City borough of Brooklyn is technically a part of Long Island? And that the Brooklyn Nets will be playing in the sparkling new Barclays Center next season? And that the Isles are playing a preseason game against the New Jersey Devils in Brooklyn on Oct. 2?

But before looking at the likelier option of the Islanders moving to Brooklyn, there is a city in Canada that is hungry for professional hockey to return. Quebec City lost the Nordiques in 1995 when the team relocated to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche. Quebecers have recently been forced to watch another Canadian city get back their team when the Jets returned to Winnipeg. How passionate are Nordiques fans to get a team back? Well, they certainly have their sights set on the Islanders. In fact, in December 2010 an estimated 1,100 Nordiques fans arrived in a bus caravan from Quebec City to invade Nassau Coliseum and voice their support for the Isles moving north.

With fans willing to travel 550 miles from Quebec City to Uniondale, N.Y., the people want the NHL back. And the arena is coming too. In fact, what perfect timing, the New Quebec City Amphitheatre, also called Quebecor Arena, is due to open in 2015, the same year the lease expires at Nassau. And it will seat 18,000, which is more than the Barclays Center, which will only be able to seat 14,500 for hockey, making it the smallest arena in the NHL. There is the possibility that the Columbus Blue Jackets or the Phoenix Coyotes could relocate to Quebec City, which would provide much relief to Islanders fans. But if the Coyotes get their ownership issues sorted out they will stay in the desert and the NHL really wants Columbus to work out, even placing the All Star game there next season. And even if the Jackets or Coyotes decide to move, there is no guarantee it would be to Quebec. Other relocation options include Seattle, where there is a proposal to build a new arena in the SoDo neighborhood; Kansas City, the home of the new Sprint Center; and Hamilton, Ontario, home to Copps Coliseum.

But Brooklyn is the better and likelier option for the Islanders. Even with the low seating capacity, Barclays Center is a natural fit. First, the location would allow the Isles to retain their identity and fan base. And the team has an agreement with their cross-town rival Rangers that allows them to relocate anywhere in Long Island, including Brooklyn and Queens. In addition to the preseason game against the Devs, Russia's Kontinental Hockey League will be playing some games at Barclays, so it is definitely hockey ready. But NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said recently that, in addition to the small capacity, the Barclays Center is hard to get to for Islanders fans living in Queens and Long Island. Bettman made this comment despite the fact that Barclays sits atop one of the largest transit hubs in New York, with easy access to many subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road commuter trains.

What do you think? Will the Islanders stay in Nassau? Move to Brooklyn? Relocate to Quebec City? Skate somewhere else?

Will NHL Return To Winnipeg?

  • Saturday, March 5, 2011 7:35 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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It is looking more likely that either Phoenix or Atlanta will be moving to Winnipeg, Manitoba. If both the Coyotes and Thrashers don't stay in their cities, then Quebec City could be next in line after Winnipeg. But there are other American cities that could compete with Quebec for a team. So perhaps no Nordiques, but probably yes to the Jets (or whatever they will be called).

The new Winnipeg team could play there as early as next season and would play their home games at MTS Centre (pictured, above). The downtown venue would be the smallest arena in the NHL at 15,015 seats. But the enthusiasm of the local population will not be lacking, unlike the half-empty arenas in Glendale and Atlanta. Win or lose, expect hockey-crazy Winnipeggers to support their team on and off the ice.

So what do you think? Will the NHL return to Winnipeg? Will it be Phoenix or Atlanta?

NHL's Second Season Set To Start

  • Sunday, April 11, 2010 6:35 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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The National Hockey League regular season wrapped today with a thrilling overtime shootout in Philadelphia to catapult the Flyers into the playoffs and send the Rangers home to New York.

Here are the first-round match-ups. For the full schedule with dates, times and TV coverage, click here.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens

#2 New Jersey Devils vs. #7 Philadelphia Flyers

#3 Buffalo Sabres vs. #6 Boston Bruins

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Ottawa Senators

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #8 Colorado Avalanche

#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #7 Nashville Predators

#3 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 Los Angeles Kings

#4 Phoenix Coyotes vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings

Also, some awards were decided on the final day of action.

Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Tampa Bay's Steve Stamkos will share the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy because both players finished with 51 goals.

Vancouver's Henrik Sedin nabbed the Art Ross Trophy for scoring with 112 points (29 goals, 83 assists).

New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur and backup Yann Danis won the William M. Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed, with 191.

Some initial thoughts on the first-round match-ups (and guess what, it all comes down to the men between the pipes):

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Caps-Canadiens

Washington is quickly putting its record-breaking regular season behind it (first non-Original Six team to reach 120 points) and focusing on Les Habs, a team it has never faced in the playoffs. Laval, Quebec native and former Montreal goaltender Jose Theodore should be pumped to play his old team and he is sure to hear it from the crowd, which should provide even extra motivation.

Prediction: Caps in 4

Devils-Flyers

Philadelphia is riding high after advancing to the playoffs in a last-game shootout against the Rangers. That won't last long. The Devils are a complete team. They already were one of the fiercest defensive teams in hockey, but with the addition of Ilya Kovalchuk they are now dangerous on offense. Flyers will sneak one win in but that is all.

Prediction: Devils in 5

Sabres-Bruins

A good match-up between two defensive-minded teams. But the edge goes to the Sabres because of Ryan Miller. If he shows the spark he had in the Olympics for Team USA, then Buffalo will be very hard to beat.

Prediction: Sabres in 6

Penguins-Senators

This is a very even match-up but the edge has to go to the Pens because of their experience winning the Cup last year and the Sidney Crosby factor. Also, Sens star Alexei Kovalev will miss the playoffs with a left knee injury. That said, Ottawa and head coach Cory Clouston should not be underestimated. They have weapons up front like Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson and the blue line is solid, especially with the addition of Andy Sutton.

Prediction: Sens in 7

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Sharks-Avs

San Jose is a perennial playoff disappointment and that won't change this year. Despite another stellar regular season, Colorado could upset the Sharks. That is unless goalie Evgeni Nabakov plays up to his potential. If he does, the Sharks are pretty much unbeatable. But the Russian goalie has been known to put in mediocre performances just at the wrong time. Avs coach Joe Sacco has his group of young players believing.

Prediction: Avs in 7

Hawks-Preds

Next to the Capitals, Chicago has the most dynamic team in the NHL. With Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews leading the charge the Hawks are the best in the West. But there is still a question mark at goal. Can Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi take this team deep into the playoffs? Time will tell.

Prediction: Hawks in 5

Canucks-Kings

The City of Angels is excited the Kings are back in the playoffs after a long dry spell. And with a corps of young talented players like Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown there is a bright future ahead for the Los Angeles franchise. And they will give the Canucks everything they've got. But it won't be enough. Vancouver has more depth and experience and Team Canada gold medal winner Roberto Luongo and Art Ross winner Henrik Sedin.

Prediction: Canucks in 7

Coyotes-Wings

This is going to be a great series. Both teams are peaking just at the right time and have hot goaltenders. Phoenix has MVP candidate Ilya Bryzgalov and the Wings have rookie of the year candidate Jimmy Howard behind the net. With all the off-ice problems in Phoenix, it is amazing the Coyotes are in the playoffs. And Detroit had all kinds of on-ice problems earlier in the season. But with the kind of Cinderella season Phoenix is having, it has the edge.

Prediction: Coyotes in 6

Wayne Shares His Wisdom

  • Friday, March 26, 2010 6:06 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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NHL legend Wayne Gretzky is holding his fantasy camp at the Bellagio in Las Vegas this year and he was gracious enough to sit down with NHL Live! interviewers E.J. Hradek and Craig Button to talk shop.

Here are a few gems from the Great One:

On what it will take for the Washington Capitals to win the Stanley Cup this year (hint: it has to do with the same position played by Grant Fuhr when the Edmonton Oilers and No. 99 were a Stanley Cup dynasty):



On the Phoenix Coyotes' cinderella season and Ilya Bryzgalov for MVP:



On what L.A. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty brought to Team Canada's gold medal run in the Vancouver Winter Olympics:



On Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane's great play in the Olympics and his teammate Jonathan Toews being a modern-day Bryan Trottier:



On Sidney Crosby:



On what Wayne is doing now:

Phoenix Coyotes Are On Fire

  • Tuesday, March 23, 2010 4:15 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Question: What Western Conference team has won nine straight games as the playoffs approach for a conference-tying 97 points?

Hint: It's not the Sharks (losers of five straight), Blackhawks, Kings, Canucks, Avalanche, Predators (although they've won six straight) or the Red Wings.

Answer: The wily Coyotes are giving the competition a big cactus prickle as the financially troubled franchise from Glendale is getting hot just at the right time.

And tonight Phoenix improbably has a chance to surpass Chicago for sole position of first place in the Western Conference. And if the Flames lose in regulation and the Coyotes beat the 'Hawks, then they will clinch a playoff spot. Wow. No one saw this coming.

Chicago has lost five of its last seven games which is why coach Joe Quenneville told NHL.com this is the biggest game of the season.

The 'Hawks might have reason to worry as the Coyotes recently defeated them 5-4 at home, coming from two goals behind to claim the victory.

Streaks come and go, but Phoenix is getting hot just at the right time. While it is entirely possible the Coyotes will go ice cold when the playoffs start and this might be a fluke, I wouldn't underestimate this team.

Regardless, the game against Chicago tonight will be an interesting test to see if this team is for real and might make a playoff run.

NHL News Recap: Kings Make Statement Against Pens

  • Friday, November 6, 2009 12:36 AM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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If the Los Angeles Kings make the playoffs this year, they will look back at Thursday night's 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins as the pivotal turning point in the season.

Yes, L.A. was already riding a 5-0-2 run and looking very much like a playoff-bound team. But their biggest test of this young season was before a sellout crowd of black-clad fans at Staples Center -- some in Penguins jerseys, most sporting the Kings crown. That is because the defending Stanley Cup champs were undefeated on the road at 7-0.

So could the young, talented Kings match the gritty, playoff-hardened Penguins and snap their road winning streak? The answer was a resounding yes. Former Penguin Rob Scuderi and his teammates showed their mettle with a furious third period.

After Pittsburgh took a 2-1 advantage, the NHL's leading scorer, Anze Kopitar, tied the game in the final session with his second goal of the night, before Jarret Stoll scored the game-winning goal. Michael Handzus and Dustin Brown padded the lead later in the period.

Goalie Jonathan Quick played a masterful game behind the net with 32 saves. Quick robbed Billy Guerin, who was camped in front of the net and took a quick pass from Sidney Crosby. Quick made a spectacular save with his right pad while in the splits.

If anything the Kings sent a message to the rest of the National Hockey League that they are for real and that they believe they can make the playoffs this year.





The Chicago Blackhawks brought their fathers on a Western road swing this week. The hockey dads are accompanying their sons to Phoenix and Denver for games against the Coyotes and Avs.

So did the 'Hawks players put in the extra effort for their dads Thursday night or did they get a scolding after the game from their fathers?

Final score: Coyotes 3, Blackhawks 1.

Time for some drills at the backyard rink boys!

Plot thickens in Coyotes saga

  • Sunday, July 12, 2009 2:29 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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New developments over the weekend have added more intrigue to the soap opera starring the Phoenix Coyotes.

Not only is a new group planning an offer for the bankrupt franchise, but the team's head coach, minority owner and creditor Wayne Gretzky has been dragged into the legal battle being waged over the Coyotes' future in Arizona.

The group of Canadians and Americans would keep the team in Phoenix -- satisfying the NHL's desire not to relocate the franchise. The league opposes the initial $212.5 million bid by Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie because he stated he would move the team to Hamilton, Ontario. Instead, commissioner Gary Bettman is backing a $148 million bid by Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner (and part-time Arizona resident) Jerry Reinsdorf, who plans on keeping the team in The Grand Canyon State.

The news regarding The Great One involves the City of Glendale requesting the tax records of the former Edmonton Oilers and L.A. Kings star because they believe as a creditor owed $9.3 million that Gretzky is being overpaid and thus Glendale would like to strike him as a creditor.

Gretzky's lawyers argue that his financial privacy is protected as a California resident and that his income tax returns aren't relevant to the sale of the Coyotes.

Despite the Coyotes not being profitable since they moved from Winnipeg to Phoenix in 1996, I believe the franchise should stay in Arizona.

Phoenix is the 12th-largest metropolitan area in the United States with over four million residents and has proven itself capable of supporting other professional franchises that have in turn become profitable. The Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Suns all operate in the green. Of course, winning the World Series (2001) and going to the Super Bowl (2009) helps.

One week ago Coyotes fans started an online petition to support keeping the team in Phoenix. So far, 446 people have signed the petition with a goal of 1,000 signatures. The petition includes a letter to bankruptcy court Judge Redfield T. Baum pleading for him to approve the sale to Reinsdorf. Here is an excerpt:

"Throughout this bankruptcy case, you have heard from the Creditors, the Debtors, the current Owner, the Stalking Horse Bidder and the National Hockey League. There is one group you have not heard from directly, though you have mentioned us several times during the court proceedings: the fans in Phoenix. We too are investors in this team; we invest not only our money on tickets but our time, our energy, our heart and our soul. Under the guidance of General Manager Don Maloney, the team has started the effort of rebuilding. We believe that our team is on the verge of something great. To lose them now after all we’ve endured and have to watch them succeed in front of a new fan base would simply be devastating."

If Phoenix fans keep making their collective voices heard loud and clear, the Coyotes will stay in Phoenix where they belong.