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Dreger: Islanders going to Kansas City for a game

Darren Dreger
1/15/2009 11:34:42 AM
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The New York Islanders are going to Kansas City.
The Islanders have agreed in principle with the Los Angeles Kings to play an exhibition game in Kansas City in September.

This may not seem like that big of a deal in light of the fact other NHL teams have used Kansas City in recent years as a neutral cite for preseason games.

However, according to league sources this game could be perceived as a veiled threat of potential relocation if plans for a new arena on Long Island aren't soon finalized.
Since purchasing the team in 2000, Charles Wang (a Long Island resident who has built most of his businesses there) has refused to threaten to move the franchise if he didn't get an arena deal.  However, it's believed Wang is growing frustrated by the fact there has been little progress by local politicians on the Lighthouse Project and Wang's plan to transform Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and surrounding 100-plus acres.

The New York Islanders are nowhere close to moving. But, according to some this mere exhibition game in Kansas City will be considered a major wakeup call to Long Islanders (and their community leaders) who allegedly think the team will stay without a new arena deal.

The Sprint Center in Kansas City is operated by AEG, whose CEO Tim Leiweke is a governor of the Los Angeles Kings.

In 2007, Leiweke made a strong play for the Pittsburgh Penguins, offering Pens ownership free rent at the Sprint Center if the team, mired at the time in a similar arena debate, moved to Kansas City.
Scare tactics worked in this case because in March of 2007 the Penguins and government officials agreed on a $290 million arena deal to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

Shortly after the decision to stay in Pittsburgh was made Leiweke expressed his desire to the Kansas City Star to bring an NHL franchise to the city:
"I hoped things would move more quickly. But no teams have moved since we started on the building. It's very competitive out there. Municipalities don't want to lose their teams."

The New York Islanders don't want to leave Long Island, however as this negotiation with local politicians drags on the potential for speculation to become reality will grow as well.

Darren Dreger

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