Photo: Bridget Samuels and David Shankbone via Flickr
Sunday, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks took the Islanders to task for just kind of wallowing in their failures.Brooks recommends the team move to Queens, where he says an arena is waiting for them.
I assume he means in the Willets Point area, which New York City is trying to build up, and which is also the home of the New York Mets’ Citi Field.
In the past, I’ve recommended the Islanders consider either Brooklyn or Queens, and given that the Isles seem to be dying on Long Island, unable to get a new arena, unable to attract talent, and for the past seven games, unable to win, I’m really hoping owner Charles Wang is considering ways to revitalize the once glorious franchise.
Moving to Queens, where I live, presents a few interesting options to the Islanders. And they’re options the franchise can’t afford to ignore:
- Retain old fans. Queens is close to Long Island. The team would be leaving their home, but they wouldn’t be going too far. Fans could easily follow the team.
- Gain new (semi) fans. It’s sometimes tough and/or expensive to get Rangers tickets. If I can’t find tickets, I’ll sometimes go catch a Devils game in Newark. It’s a pretty quick ride and the Rock is a really nice arena. If the Islanders could get an arena with the amenities of Citi Field (beautiful field and great food) or the Rock, people would visit, not necessarily to support the Islanders, but to see some hockey at a decent price. Especially since the Willets Point area is very public transportation accessible, unlike Nassau Coliseum.
- Take advantage of demographic-based marketing. Queens is a diverse borough. There’s a solid Russian population that might be enticed to check out NHL games. But there’s also a huge Latino population. The Mets aggressively courted that population with Spanish-language ads in the Latino media. Plus, they made a point of signing Latino players. Why wouldn’t that same strategy work for the Islanders? Why not make a play for Scott Gomez and goalie Al Montoya? Could the Islanders goaltending really get any worse? Heck. They could even bring back Raffi Torres and Bill Guerin, both of whom apparently are Latino. Queens also has almost half a million Asians. Wang has tried reaching out to the Asian community before, but if the Islanders were playing in Queens, it would certainly be worth a more concerted effort. It also might be worth bringing Korean-American Richard Park back into the Islanders fold. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind coming back from Switzerland, where he’s currently playing.
- Lure free agents. The Islanders could probably actually attract free agents a) with a new arena and b) being so close to Manhattan, but also close to more suburban areas. The beauty of Queens is that it exists in both of those worlds and the Islanders could easily leverage that beauty and find more players willing to join a franchise that’s had trouble attracting free agents.
Things aren’t going so great for the Islanders and hope doesn’t seem to be anywhere nearby. I understand that Wang is committed to making the Islanders work on Long Island, but at a certain point, he has to choose between his Long Island dream and keeping his franchise viable. If he’s interested in the latter, he needs to seriously consider Queens as a home for the Islanders. It’s the one destination that might revitalize the franchise while still allowing fans to continue to support their team.
It’s more work than simply firing coach Scott Gordon and finding some poor sucker to sign to a 25-year contract, but the potential benefits should more than offset the extra work.
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