Count New York Islanders captain John Tavares among those happy that the team had the successful bid to construct a new stadium at Belmont Park.
"For us as players and our fan base to have somewhere, you know, it's written in stone that we're going to have a home built for the Islanders on Long Island is pretty special," Tavares said. "The Islanders are called the Islanders for a reason. This is really where the team belongs."
The team's bid was selected by New York State ahead of Major League Soccer side New York City FC's proposal for the property adjacent to the famed racetrack. Along with an 18,000-capacity arena, the Islanders' proposal includes a hotel, retail space and an "innovation centre."
The Islanders' lease at Brooklyn's Barclays Center - their home since the move from the Nassau Coliseum in 2015 - can be terminated by either side at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season and it's not believed that either the team or the arena's ownership is eager to extend the deal.
With an arena deal settled, Tavares's future will now come into focus for the team. The 27-year-old Oakville, Ont., product is in the final year of a six-year, $33 million deal, making Tavares an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Originally taken with the first overall selection in the 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft out of the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights, Tavares was reportedly one of a number of players not enamoured with the Islanders' setup in Brooklyn, lamenting not only the travel time to the arena, but also the poor quality of the ice. A return to Long Island could go a long way in helping the Islanders in retaining the services of their talisman.
“I can only control what I can control,” Tavares told the New York Times in October. “I want to be the best player I can be for the Islanders, and obviously I want things to work out, so I’m here for a long time.”
Through 34 games this season, Tavares has 19 goals and 23 assists and is tied for third in league scoring with teammate Josh Bailey.