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Pantorno: Jon Ledecky already an all-time Islanders great

The Islanders co-owner might not ever have to buy a drink on Long Island ever again.
Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky (right) wanted to start building his team's new arena this spring. (Photo: Getty Images)

New York Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky had every reason in the world to smile on Wednesday morning. 

His team was returning to Nassau County after jettisoning to Brooklyn in 2015, a press conference featuring New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirming that the Islanders, Sterling Project Development and Oak View Group won the bid to build a brand-new, state-of-the-art arena in the area near Belmont Race Track in Elmont, NY. 

But he wasn't thinking of himself after his efforts made this happen.

"For the fans, this day is for you," Ledecky said. "You’ve been passionate supporters of the team both on and off the ice. Today is a huge day for this franchise and you deserve it more than anyone else."

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As if Islanders fans couldn't like this guy any more. 

Ledecky and co-owner Scott Malkin officially took over 85 percent of the Islanders in June of 2016, ending Charles Wang's reign as majority team owner which dated back to 2000. He still holds a 15-percent stake in the club. 

Almost immediately, Ledecky reached out to a starving fan base. Regularly taking the train to the Barclays Center alongside Islanders fans, Ledecky could be seen speaking with them, listening to them, finding out what they want. 

Though he really didn't have to do that considering it was overwhelmingly obvious that Islanders fans wanted their team back on Long Island. And don't start with this "Brooklyn is on Long Island" talk. I'm talking about Nassau County. 

The thing was, Ledecky actually heard them and directed all his efforts into making this actually happen. 

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this was also Wang's vision. The former majority owner did everything he could to get the old Lighthouse Project off the drawing board last decade. However, a litany of corrupt politicians made it all but impossible for him as he continued to hemorrhage money in order to keep the team afloat at the Nassau Coliseum. Which is something all Islanders fans must be thankful for.

But with new, less-corrupt names in office, Ledecky was a man possessed, setting his vision on Belmont and looking no place else. 

"We have no Plan B," he said earlier this month. "And we haven't even thought about one."

He certainly didn't need one as his bid, which was submitted on Sept. 28, beat New York City FC's proposed 26,000-seat open-air stadium. 

Since 1983, the last of the dynasty years in which the Islanders won four-straight Stanley Cups, this is a franchise that has been mired in mediocrity. Playing in an arena that was crumbling around them, they trudged through nightmare seasons, inept regimes of management, questionable jersey changes and small-market dealings. 

Before a first-round victory against the Florida Panthers in the spring of 2016, the Islanders had not won a playoff series since 1993.

It left the fan base beaten down, jaded, even angry. 

Even after an ugly loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night, there was not an ounce of Scrooge-like feelings on Wednesday morning, just five days before Christmas as Gov. Cuomo welcomed the Islanders back to Nassau County. 

That kind of optimism is alien around these parts and it was brought to Islanders fans by their own version of Santa Claus: Jon Ledecky.