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No clear path for Islanders, Barclays Center as rifts continue to build

For how much longer will the Islanders call Brooklyn home?Getty Images

Sitting on a podium inside the Staples Center, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke.

His words reverberated 2,794.2 miles to the east.

Specifically, at the Barclays Center.

“The owners are committed to the franchise,” Bettman told reporters during his State of the NHL address Saturday during the NHL All-Star Weekend. “They're committed to New York and the great fan base that has followed the Islanders. There are some issues about playing in Barclays. It may be fundamental to the system, and that's not something that can be fixed in the short term. I think as is prudent, Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky are reviewing the situation and looking very seriously at what their options are.”

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The relationship between Barclays Center and the Islanders has not been the seamless marriage the arena, team and league envisioned when the three entities announced in a 2012 news conference the club and building had agreed upon what then-majority owner Charles Wang called an “iron-clad” 25-year lease.

Fans have complained about sightlines as Barclays has obstructed view seating. The Islanders moved their morning skate from Barclays back to Long Island on game days during the middle of last season. The Islanders finished last season ranked 28th in the league in attendance, and are 28th in attendance this season.

More troubling has been the quality of the ice at Barclays.

Following a game in October, Cal Clutterbuck told reporters the ice at Barclays was “unplayable,” which led to long-time NHL reporter Chris Botta to tweet the arena’s “floor piping system … does not meet NHL standard requirements for ice making” due to Barclays having “PVC piping. All other NHL rinks have steel pipes. PVC cannot maintain ideal [temperature] of 21 degrees for NHL play.”

In December, Rangers winger Rick Nash told the New York Daily News that he thought Barclays’ ice “was really soft,” and led to his groin injury. “I don't know if that could've been an issue, not to blame anything. But yeah, I took two hard strides and I just felt my groin go out. So I don't know if it was one specific thing. It was in the second period, so I was warm. It's not like I was cold right in the first period, first shift or anything,” Nash said.

Both the Islanders and Barclays have opt-out clauses, which has led to speculation that the team could move. Barclays is renovating the Nassau Coliseum and will manage the building when it reopens, but it is believed the Coliseum will only seat 13,000. Belmont Park and Willets Point, Queens, have also been suggested as potential destinations.

— In other notes, Bettman said Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos is “more open-minded” to fully selling the team, but noted “there’s no formal sale process going on. There’s no imperative for the franchise to be sold on any immediate basis, and the franchise is not moving.”

— Bettman hinted owners are reluctant to send players to the Olympics due to compressing the “schedule and a whole host of things you have to talk about.” Bettman added the International Olympic Committee’s unwillingness “to pay the expenses” incurred by having NHL players compete in the Olympics “caused a number of clubs to say, ‘Well, wait a minute. If that’s how they value our participation, why are we knocking ourselves out?’”

You can follow Metro New York NHL writer Denis P. Gorman on Twitter at @DenisGorman.

 
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