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Cockamamie Tales

As a radio personality, I’m used to hearing people accuse the media of deliberately stirring the pot.  It’s a common complaint, and a difficult one to refute, especially when you read columns like the one written today by Damien Cox regarding the future of the New York Islanders.

As you know, the Islanders’ request to bond money for a new arena was decisively shot down by the voters of Nassau County on Monday.  According to Cox, the vote result was a clear indication of Long Island’s disdain for the team’s owner, Charles Wang:

It’s hard for an owner to become this toxic in a community, but Wang seems to have accomplished that. Fans won’t come to his team’s games — the average attendance of 11,059 was worst in the NHL last season — and the manner in which he has operated the club — signing Rick DiPietro to a 15-year contract, hiring a university to do radio broadcasts of the team’s games, selecting the team’s backup goalie to be the new general manager — has alienated many hardcore supporters….

Wang needs to excuse himself from the picture. The NHL may or may not work any longer on Long Island, but it certainly can’t work with him as the owner.

It blows my mind to see how Cox makes such outlandish claims without offering a shred of credible evidence to support his argument.  There’s nothing wrong with questioning some of Wang’s personnel decisions over the years.  All owners in professional sports are criticized when their teams are unsuccessful for long periods of time.  But to say Wang has become “toxic” because his club has been a laughingstock for most of his 11-year tenure is ludicrous. 

Although Cox says he’s alienated many long-time fans, the fact of the matter is Charles Wang saved hockey on Long Island.  Virtually any Islander fan would tell you that the Islanders would have flown the coup long ago if Wang had not bought the team in 2000. 

The Islanders’ ownership woes in those days were well-documented.  The club was coming off a bizarre and embarrassing saga involving John Spano, a Dallas businessman who bought the team from then-owner John Pickett before being exposed as a fraud. Pickett eventually found a legitimate ownership group led by Howard Milstein and Steven Gluckstern, who ran the team on a shoestring budget, resulting in some unpopular trades that decimated the roster.

While the Islanders have not had much success under Wang’s watch, the man has provided the franchise with an element of stability it didn’t have in the late 90’s.  Wang bought a team nobody else wanted, and his commitment to Long Island has been unabashed despite considerable political opposition to his privately-funded Lighthouse project several years ago, and his latest arena bonding plan.

Cox makes a snide comment about the Islanders’ poor attendance, somehow linking that low number to Wang’s ownership.  It’s a horrid attempt to draw a correlation that simply doesn’t exist.  Hockey fans don’t care, and most don’t know, who owns their favorite team.  The sorry attendance at Nassau Coliseum can be blamed solely on the club’s recent on-ice struggles, which have stemmed largely from financial restrictions beyond Wang’s control. 

Charles Wang has done just about everything he can to keep the Islanders afloat financially, while simultaneously trying to ice a competitive team.  He opened up his pocketbook back in 2001 and orchestrated a brief renaissance after picking up some top notch players (Yashin, Peca, Osgood, Aucoin).  Unfortunately, the Islanders were unable to sustain any level of success after the lockout, and the club has since engaged on a rebuilding project that is now on the verge of bearing some fruit.

Wang has said he’s lost around $240 million dollars during his ownership tenure. Yet he still wants to keep the team on Long Island.  Does that sound like a man who is considered toxic in the community?

Sure, there are some Islander fans who don’t agree with the way Charles Wang has run the team.  With that said, Bruin fans had been calling for Jeremy Jacobs’ head for years because of their repeated failures in the playoffs.  Magically, that chorus has been silenced.  I guess winning does cure all ills.

In that regard, the Islanders have been sick for quite some time.  But as I alluded to earlier, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Although Damien Cox lists the hiring of Garth Snow as general manager as one of Wang’s countless mistakes, the former goaltender has done an admirable job of building a young, up-tempo hockey club with a steady veteran presence that may very well challenge for a playoff spot next season. 

Even though the arena referendum was rejected, Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank believes Charles Wang will find a way to work out a deal that will keep the club in Nassau County after 2015.  Only time will tell.  Either way, you can bet that Wang will do everything in his power to make sure the Islanders remain Long Island’s only professional sports team.

Filed in: NHL Teams, New York Islanders, NHL Media, Joe Tasca, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: charles+wang, damien+cox

Comments

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I read a bit of the Cox article, and got nautious about how little he knows of the situation.  He’s clearly making things up because he has a deadline and needs to write something.  That’s pretty scary from a member of the press.  I don’t expect him to be objective, since I have very little respect for “reporters” in general.  But the fact that he has nothing to back up a single point of his makes this all the more scary.
Thank you for setting things straight.

Posted by RogerNYLA on 08/03/11 at 03:18 AM ET

Pharazon's avatar

i’ve thought for a while the Damien Cox was one of the biggest tools out there… his article does nothing to change my views…

sounds like he just another Canadian journalist with a agenda, not for the fist time…

Posted by Pharazon from England on 08/03/11 at 03:56 AM ET

Chet's avatar

cox may or may not be a tool, but i think it’s true that charles wang is not exactly a long island favorite these days.

it’s true cox probably also can’t prove that voting “yes” to this measure was linked in many voters’ minds to voting “yes” to wang (har).

still, cox has a workable theory. let’s not crucify the guy. and let’s not also confuse his criticism of wang with criticism of the community, the teams history, or the islanders players.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 08/03/11 at 07:11 AM ET

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Charles Wang is the Al Davis of the NHL. The Rick DiPietro contract is the worst signed in the history of pro sports, and the current situation with Alexei Yashin is historically comical (I just made up a term… hey, Wang deserves it). I defended them vigorously last year for going after the punk a$$ Penguins but that’s really all I got. Damien Cox may be a bit of a blowhard, but he knows hockey, and I don’t think he’s far off the mark here.

Posted by Eric H. on 08/03/11 at 09:58 AM ET

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If the byline states Damien Cox, why read further?

Polls overwhelmingly indicate that Long Islanders want the Islanders to remain, they also do not want their average $11k property taxes to increase a penny more in a county that needs its spending approved by a state agency. If the voters could have voted on Wang’s Lighthouse proposal that was stopped by the Town of Hempstead, then it would have been a referendum on Wang.

Rick DiPietro contract is the worst in sports, because he got injured.  It is no worse than Datsyuk, Kovalchuk, Ovechkin, Hossa, Richards, Carter and many other long term deals that were made AFTER Wang made the DiPietro deal. It was so crazy, that so many other teams copied him. The difference is he didn’t just front load it to circumvent the cap.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 08/03/11 at 01:08 PM ET

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Thank God we do not have an owner like Wang down here.  Yes, the guy is not a competent owner.  Yes, the people of Long Island do not want to pony up any more money for a new arena.  It is possible that they might be coerced into doing so by a more user friendly owner. 

With this vote and the decrepit condition of the old arena, there is little to no chance that the Islanders will remain on Long Island, regardless of ownership.

Doc

Posted by DocF from Reidsville, NC on 08/03/11 at 02:35 PM ET

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It blows my mind to see how Cox makes such outlandish claims without offering a shred of credible evidence to support his argument.

So you’re saying Wang didn’t
a) push for giving a 15 year contract to a brittle goalie over the objection of an experienced GM who quit/was fired rather than make this stupid signing, which has bit him in the behind just like everyone at the time said it would
b) fill the GM position with a journeyman roster player with no executive experience
c) field a team with the worst average attendance
d) let college undergrads (presumably unpaid) announce a pro team
e) get voted down every time he tried to do anything

I mean, that’s his evidence, it’s all irrefutable and the Islanders under Wang are a Keystone Cops organization, which is why more players would currently be willing to freeze to death and lose in Edmonton than would currently be willing to just lose on LI.

What ‘shred’ do you want from Cox, beyond all this? An interview with the guy from the city planner’s office who said he didn’t think Wang was competent enough to build a doghouse?

Posted by steviesteve on 08/03/11 at 04:42 PM ET

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What Wang has done.
a) DiPietro was brittle when signed? Injuries all occured after contract. Bad contract for 15 years, but injuries were not a factor.
b) Jim Devallano - NHL games played 0. Islanders currently ranked by prospectus as number 2 in prospects in the NHL. Look where they were with Milbury.What does playing ability have to do with the ability to be GM? Scotty Bowman must have been one hell of a player as well. Nice story, but little merit. Snow has done well with limited resources.
c) The Islanders always have a full roster so I think the players are in full attendance. Lead the league in man games lost to injury, but I think the Devils with 15 man rosters had worst attendance. I think you mean the team plays in front of the smallest crowds, which is true. Teams that are rebuilding are terrible draws.
d) Undergrads help produce, but they do have a pro announcer. The worst part is that the broadcast is barely heard outside of Long Island.
e) There has been one vote, so yes he is 0-1, but by losing he saved himself the $2.2 million election cost.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 08/03/11 at 06:12 PM ET

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a) DiPietro was brittle when signed? Injuries all occured after contract. Bad contract for 15 years, but injuries were not a factor.

Except his knee surgery and hip problems. But it’s true that his other knee, face, back and other hip weren’t bad at the time the contract was signed.


b) Jim Devallano - NHL games played 0. Islanders currently ranked by prospectus as number 2 in prospects in the NHL. Look where they were with Milbury.What does playing ability have to do with the ability to be GM? Scotty Bowman must have been one hell of a player as well.

I’m sorry, which of these guys had 0 days of front office experience in any business and 0 days management experience in hockey when they made GM? That’s right, none of them.


Snow has done well with limited resources.

Snow has started to do well with limited resources after watching the team become a laughingstock over the course of his first few seasons, which is why responsible owners apprentice ex-players into future-executives under someone who knows what he’s doing instead of just throwing him to the wolves and letting him trade a pick that could have been PK Subban or Jamie Benn for 2 months of Ryan Smyth.


c) The Islanders always have a full roster so I think the players are in full attendance. Lead the league in man games lost to injury, but I think the Devils with 15 man rosters had worst attendance. I think you mean the team plays in front of the smallest crowds, which is true. Teams that are rebuilding are terrible draws.

How droll. Well, then, can you name another NHL owner in a similar sized market that has drawn similar-sized crowds to his product than Wang? I can. Bill Wirtz, which underscores Cox’s point about Wang’s toxicity.

While you’re at it, name another pro-sports franchise that made an actor with no hockey experience guest coach during a game.

Wang is a wretched owner, possibly the worst in the big 4 sports, and the Islanders will not be a successful sports team until he’s gone.

Posted by steviesteve on 08/03/11 at 07:10 PM ET

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Except his knee surgery and hip problems

Nice try, but the timeline is a fact. Contract signed 2006. First injury was a concussion in 2007. He NEVER had an injury prior to the contract and had played 60+ games each season prior to injury.

with a journeyman roster player

You made playing experience a pre-requisite not I for being a successful GM. If you stick to the gact that he had no executive experience you had a vlaid poitn, but you bring up non-issues like they are relevant.

[

i]Snow has started to do well ... watching the team become a laughingstock over the course of his first few seasons,

He did win executive of the year his second season and he made a great first trade acquiring Smyth from Edmonton. He decided to blow it up and rid the team of Yashin almost immediately, so although he was a question mark, it has panned out.

name another NHL owner in a similar sized market that has drawn similar-sized crowds to his product than Wang?

Ted Leonsis. When the team was terrible and the NEW stadium was empty. Now they are top ten and number 1 draws, good teams draw, bad teams don’t. Never went to see a Wings game to catch a glimpes of Illitch.

an actor with no hockey experience guest coach during a game.

Also selecting at the draft, agree that this is just plain stupid, but has no real effect on wins and losses.

The reality is Wang has made some terrible hockey decisions and when he finally got rid of Milbury and allowed Snow to run the show the team has improved. However, the guy has lost $220 million in the last ten years while keeping the team on Long Island. After Spano and Gluckstern/Milstein there wasn’t anybody willing to make that kind of investment.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 08/04/11 at 12:59 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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