August 17, 2013

With Isles leaving, could Sound Tigers move to Long Island?

By Christian Arnold

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – There will be more hockey than just six Islander games at the new Nassau Coliseum.

During a press conference detailing the specifics of the Forest City Ratner’s plan to redevelop the Nassau Coliseum, company executive chairman Bruce Ratner announced that the Bridgeport Sound Tigers would be coming to the venue when the project is completed.

“It is going to be the Sound Tigers, assuming they come to a good agreement with this landlord here,” Ratner said when asked by New York Hockey Journal who would be the Coliseum’s new anchor tenant once the Islanders leave. “…We have to come to an agreement with Mr. [Charles] Wang, but I don’t see that as an issue.”

Wang, who owns the New York Islanders, also owns the Sound Tigers and Harbor Sports & Entertainment, which manages the building the team plays in. AHL Bridgeport has a lease to play in Webster Bank Arena through 2020 and Ratner’s announcement seemed to catch the team off guard.

“Our agreement with the City of Bridgeport ends on August 31st, 2020,” the Sound Tigers said in a statement. “We have seven years remaining on this deal. The Sound Tigers have an agreement to play in Webster Bank Arena until then and plan on doing so until we hear otherwise from our owner. There is no agreement in place between the Islanders organization and the Ratner Group or Barclays Center. The Sound Tigers love being in Bridgeport and absolutely plan on spending at least the next seven AHL seasons here.”

It is hard to believe that a deal will not be forthcoming in the near future.

Should things work out the way they are suppose to, the Sound Tigers would join the Islanders, who have already committed to playing six games at the new Nassau Coliseum. The dual home venues for the Islanders – who are moving to the Barclays Center in 2015 – is unorthodox to say the least, and it is unclear whether the league will agree to it, but Ratner seems confident they will give the plan the green light.

“We feel confident they’re going to approve it. We’ve had some discussions, so I don’t think it will be an issue,” he said.

Ratner added later: “It’s up to the NHL and I think they’re most concerned about the fans. And I think the fans will want [the Islanders] out here six games. At the end of the day it’s about the fans and patrons, and I don’t think anybody wants to get in the way of that.”

The Forest City Ratner Executive Chairman also said that it was “highly likely” that the Islanders would play out the rest of their lease in Nassau County, and explained why a return to Long Island, other than six games a year, was unlikely.

“At the end of the day this place will be beautiful and it’s going to be great for concerts. But for a professional sports team to play here all the time you have issues with suits and boxes and whole bunch of other things,” Ratner said. 

Twitter: @CA_NYHockey