NHL's Islanders Moving to Brooklyn in 2015

This Sept. 20, 2012, file photo shows workers sweeping the plaza in front of the main entrance to the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The NHL's New York Islanders have struck a deal to move to Barclays Center once the team's Nassau Coliseum lease expires after the 2014-15 season.
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By IRA PODELL, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Mike Bossy's fondest memories of the New York Islanders will always have Nassau Coliseum as the cherished backdrop, no matter where the team calls home.

That doesn't mean the Hockey Hall of Famer isn't embracing the team's big move to Brooklyn.

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Since the day the Islanders entered the NHL in 1972, Nassau Coliseum has been the place for them. It's where they grabbed the hockey spotlight, outshined the big, bad Rangers, and won the Stanley Cup four straight times from 1980-83 in establishing one of the greatest dynasties in sports.

But on Wednesday, the future became all about Brooklyn.

After seven months of negotiations, and offers to move the team out of New York, club owner Charles Wang said the Islanders will relocate to Brooklyn once their lease at Nassau Coliseum expires after the 2014-15 season.

"Today is today, yesterday was yesterday," said Bossy, a top star during the Islanders' glory years. "I have trouble sometimes putting myself in the shoes of the guy who won four Stanley Cups and who scored as many goals as I did because I've moved on and I do other stuff now.

"We did what we did where we did and now that is changing. It doesn't take anything away from what we did. If they would've built a new arena in Nassau County, the Coliseum would've been gone anyway. I always say that whatever you did is always in your heart and in your memories."

The move is hardly shocking and not even unprecedented. The old New York Nets left Nassau Coliseum way back when, relocated to New Jersey, and have moved into their new Brooklyn home — the sparkling Barclays Center that will also house the Islanders beginning in 2015.

Unlike the Nets, who changed their logo and added Brooklyn to their name, the Islanders are sticking to their heritage through and through.

That is important to Bossy, now the Islanders' vice president of corporate partnerships.

"Absolutely," he said. "Charles' main goal was to keep the team local, and he succeeded in doing that. As much as people may be upset because it's not going to be in Nassau County they should be happy because he kept the team in New York."

The Barclays Center sits across the street from the site Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley hoped to put a baseball stadium on to keep his club in New York. He was unable to pull it off, so the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles in 1958 and left the borough without a pro sports team until the Nets' arrival this year.

Coincidentally, the Nets hosted the New York Knicks in an NBA preseason game at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday night.

Real estate developer Bruce Ratner, a minority owner of the Nets, was instrumental in getting the Barclays Center built and paving the way for Brooklyn to re-enter the world of sports in a major way. The building is the main part of a $3.5 billion complex called Atlantic Yards that was built by Ratner's company.

Ratner gave the credit for the Islanders' move to Wang.

"He got offers to move the team out of state — good offers — but Charles wouldn't do that," Ratner said. "Charles is the real hero here today."

Wang wanted to keep the team in New York despite failing to get the Lighthouse Project built on Long Island. That grandiose plan would have included a new arena for the Islanders, but it never got the necessary approval for construction.

Both Wang and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stated in the past that the Islanders wouldn't play in Nassau Coliseum one day longer than they had to. Wang said he had serious options to move the team far away, but stuck to his desire to stay.

"We came to the right conclusion," Wang said. "We had many offers that we looked at, but our first priority was we wanted to stay in Nassau County and then in New York."

The Islanders hope this move will help them on and off the ice. The team hasn't reached the playoffs since 2007 and hasn't won a postseason series since 1993.

Wang started Wednesday's festivities in the lobby of the new arena with a bold proclamation of "Hello Brooklyn!"