This is a dark time for those of us who follow hockey. If you haven't heard (and let's face it, that's fairly likely), the NHL has locked its players out, and the ugly labor dispute between the sides doesn't look like it's close to resolution. So, instead of numbing life's endless pain with three or four games on NHL Game Center Live each night, we're stuck feigning interest in commissioner Gary Bettman's buffoonery and longing for the star players as they light up European leagues. It's bleak.
But this week there was hockey news centered on something besides the lockout: The pitiful New York Islanders (you can think of them as the Royals of hockey, if that helps you get through a post about hockey) are leaving Long Island's Nassau County for the glitzy new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. This means one other thing: The team, which has been considered ripe for relocation for several years, is definitely not going to fill the puck-shaped hole in our heart.
More broadly, though, the Isles' decision to stay in the New York metro (and keep that sweet barge of cable revenue) means that the chances of Kansas City luring an NHL franchise to Sprint Center have likely vanished for good. During the giddy days during and after the Sprint Center was built, the Islanders' despised owner, Charles Wang, kicked Kansas City's tires. Or, as The New York Times put it, "Wang looked for leverage, even taking the Islanders to Kansas City, Mo. for an exhibition game."
Since the troubled Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg last year, just about every other team is settled for the long term.
With the Islanders locked up (they'll start playing in Barclays in 2014-15) for 25 years in Brooklyn, there are few other clubs that are seriously considered to be movable. Glendale, Arizona, continues to fight to keep the Phoenix Coyotes in town, and it appears they'll stay put. The Edmonton Oilers could possibly hit the road in the future. They're fighting with city officials about building a new arena, and both the owners and City Council are playing rough. It's still not considered likely that the team will leave, given its role in the city's culture and NHL history.
But even if the Oilers did decide to move, Seattle basically called dibs on the team last month when Oilers' owners visited Seattle to learn about the proposed arena. (Kansas City hasn't gotten a look yet. We probably won't.)
Seattle signed off on funding a new $490 million arena for an NBA and NHL team last week. They don't have a team in either league, but billionaire Seattle native Chris Hansen is trying to snap up an NBA team to move to the city. That yet-to-be-built arena is already proving more alluring to Edmonton than our still new-feeling downtown arena for NHL teams.
So, with the Islanders out of the picture, the Oilers likely to stay north of the border and being wooed by the Emerald City, and Phoenix finally getting its affairs in order, Kansas City appears to be out of luck for the long term and possibly forever. I guess there's always expansion. Maybe?
At least without a team, we get Justin Bieber AND Madonna! Who needs hockey?