Maybe Jim Dolan will ride to the rescue.
How would that be if the Garden CEO swooped in to save the Coliseum for the Islanders for one more season before the team can settle into its new digs at Belmont Park for 2021-22?
Because the Grand Old Barn that Dolan’s and MSG’s affiliated Oak View Group had bid on in 2013 before losing the rights to its renovation to Barclays is available again. Immediately and shockingly.
That is because current owner, Onexim Sports and Entertainment’s Mikhail Prokhorov, announced on Monday that it would close the Coliseum’s doors “indefinitely” while seeking investors to take over the lease and assume the remaining debt of approximately $100 million on the arena, as first reported by Bloomberg News.
If the building is closed, that means the Islanders would either return to Brooklyn for the 2020-21 season that probably won’t start until at least late December or would have to find temporary digs before they can stake claim to their new arena that is under construction and should be ready as planned for the 2021-22 NHL season.
So, once again there is uncertainty for this Shipwreck Franchise that apparently is never allowed to sail on smooth seas or have nice new things without surviving major agita. Maybe this is all payback for the Dynasty: Go and win four straight Stanley Cups and 19 consecutive playoff rounds but then be reduced to nomads four decades or so into the future. Maybe this was some grand bargain the owner at the time, John Pickett, struck with the devil.
(No, not Lou Lamoriello; not then, at least)
For the first time in ages, the Islanders’ path to the future seemed unencumbered by doubt when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Feb. 28 that the team would play all of its 2020 playoff games and its entire 2020-21 home schedule (plus playoffs) at the Coliseum.
Of course, uncertainty abounds in the midst of this pandemic that has taken the lives of over 115,000 in this country. The NHL that shut down on March 12 is attempting to craft an agreement with the NHLPA that will allow the league to get back on ice with a 24-team Stanley Cup tournament that will be staged in two hub cities without fans in the stands.
The Islanders, who played 24 of their 35 home games at the Coliseum this season, will be in the best-of-five qualifying round against Florida, probably in Las Vegas. So building availability this year is not an issue. It is about next season, at least a portion of which might also be played without spectators in arenas.
It is thus possible that the issue could become moot for the fans, but it won’t be for the team, which will need a place to play. Brooklyn? Wouldn’t that be tantamount to the divorced couple being forced to continue to live in their same old apartment because one of them has no place else to go?
But if the Coliseum’s doors are shut and Barclays is willing (if not obligated through the lease) to have the Islanders, then it sure beats being homeless.
Dolan, as all owners of entertainment properties, has obviously taken a financial beating during the pandemic. The Garden is closed, Radio City is closed, The Beacon Theatre is closed, As are his venues across the country. So in this environment, the Garden CEO may not choose to leap again at the opportunity to buy the Coliseum and develop the land around the building.
But if the Garden becomes involved … and if the Coliseum is open for hockey business in 2020-21 if there is hockey business in 2020-21 … well, how delicious would it be for the Rangers, indirectly, to give the Islanders and their fans the gift of singing, One Last Time?
Plus, how about that Mat Barzal for Boo Nieves deal?