Bettman set a deadline of Thursday for a new collective bargaining agreement to be reached with the players' association that would allow for a full 82-game season to be played beginning on Nov. 2. With no negotiations scheduled, and a divide between the sides seemingly growing wider, Bettman conceded that a shortened season is the most likely scenario.
"It looks like the 82-game season is not going to be a reality," the commissioner said.
Officials in nearby Nassau County, N.Y., have struggled for years to come up with a plan to either renovate or build a new arena to replace the Nassau Coliseum. Wang, the founder of a computer software company, presented a plan in 2003 for a privately funded multibillion-dollar development of housing, retail and a new arena on the property, but the proposal foundered amid community opposition.
"I think fans want a good experience," Wang said. "It's not just about watching hockey it's also the whole ambience of coming to a place where you can get good food and you can see. We have Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn fans. Westchester might be a little bit harder, but we have them all over the tri-state area."
The Barclays deal took seven months to complete and was finished Tuesday night, according to Wang.
"Brooklyn is big time and now we have the big-league sports to prove it," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the Nassau Coliseum for 16 violations of workplace health and safety standards. OSHA said workers had been exposed to asbestos. The areas were not accessible to the general public. It also found inadequately lighted exit routes and other violations.
SMG, the company that manages the Coliseum for Nassau County, says it will contest the citation. It says the asbestos issues had been remediated.
As recently as April, Bettman said Brooklyn might not be a viable destination for the Islanders because it's hard to reach for the team's fan base in Long Island and Queens. However, the team's announcement of a news conference at the Barclays Center trumpeted the fact that it is located "atop one of the largest transportation hubs in New York City ... accessible by 11 subway lines, the Long Island Rail Road, and 11 bus lines."
"It took us 25 minutes to get here today," Islanders general manager Garth Snow said. "We didn't turn our back (on fans). This announcement has shown that the key is that we stayed local and we got a first-class facility. We're happy that our fans are still able to come and watch us play as the New York Islanders."
Last year, voters overwhelmingly rejected a referendum — backed by Wang — that would have allowed Nassau County to borrow $400 million to build a new hockey arena. Earlier this year, county officials announced they were seeking proposals to open the 77-acre parcel to any developer interested in proposing new ideas for the site. An announcement on those proposals was expected to be released any day.
County Executive Edward Mangano backed the referendum as a way of keeping the hockey team from leaving along with spurring economic development and job growth. In a statement, Mangano said an economic team will be formed to redevelop the area around the old arena. He didn't specifically comment on the Islanders.
"I am disappointed to learn of the Islanders' plan to relocate to Brooklyn," Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said in a statement. "They've been a valued part of this region's identity, and we wish the team great success in the future. We hope Long Islanders will continue to cheer for the team."
Long Island fans seemed resigned to the move.
"I wish they would stay on Long Island. I was an Islanders fan for many years and went to all the Stanley Cup wins," said Sandy Thomas, a former season-ticket holder. He added: "But the county and the town did not want to spend any money to support them. It's too much of a commute to go to Brooklyn to a game. I will watch it on television."