Sunday, July 31, 2011

New York Islanders: The Real Truth Behind the Arena Project

Im sitting here trying to fond the angle to play with this article and decided to go and talk frankly about what is going on at the moment.

First a little background on what has been done to this point.

Charles Wang bought the Islanders for many reasons. One being most prominent is that he is a Long Islander and wherever he went, people said hey Mr. Wang, help out us Islander fans and buy the team.

Men like Charles Wang, who admittedly did not know much of anything about the sport saw something in the Islanders back then that not a lot of other people saw, value.

Maybe not in the horrid attendance figures and equally as bad performance but he saw value on the team.

Financial value.

Charles Wang had a vision for the Nassau Coliseum and the surrounding area and he figured if he owned the team well then it would put him at the forefront of the battle that was to be had over the 77 acre Nassau Coliseum area.

The Nassau Hub project if you will is something that has been talked about for many years dating back to the 1980's.

I will not go through all of the plans that have been put forth because for whatever reason none of them ever made it past the planning stage.

Charles Wang has a much more grandiose vision of what was to be placed on the site.

The Lighthouse Project was a complete area make over with e new renovated arena and tha fully developed 77 acre development plan that was so big and so huge that the idea that someone wanted to build such a project in Uniondale was mind boggling.

Price tags of between three and four billion dollars was what it was going to cost.

Charles Wang brought on a partner for this project in the Rexcorp, only the largest and most successful real estate developer on Long Island.

He was serious and he was going to finance the project himself.

Yes you saw that right.

The project went through most of the legal hurdles and tens of millions of dollars was spent.

The Town of Hempstead effectively killed the monster project saying it was to dense for Nassau County.

This put us back at square one.

Enter Ed Mangano.

In a stunning upset, Ed Mangano unseated incumbent Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi.

So where did this leave the development of the area?

Mangano decided to get everyone to the table, The main entities in the deal are Nassau County, The Town of Hempstead and Charles Wang.

They all agree on one thing. The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum needs to be replaced. It is outdated and way past its prime as a new arena has been talked about on the site as far back as the late 1980's.

They all came up with the plan that will be voted on by Nassau County residents August 1st at a special referendum to see if the people of Nassau County agree with their elected officials on whether the arena should be replaced with County money.

They want to borrow 350 million dollars to pay for the project and another 50 million for a minor league baseball park.

Here is the kicker. opponents of the project say that residents of Nassau County are in effect voting themselves a tax increase if they vote yes on August 1st.

That sounds bad right? No one likes new taxes do they?

Well how much more taxes are we talking about?

That number is in dispute but here is the range of money were talking about.

Anywhere from $18 to a worst case scenario of $58.

Wow. that sounds like a lot of money to pay extra every month.

Wait a second. Its not monthly? Its YEARLY?

So the big problem people have is that people will have to eat a monstrous 31 cents to $1.12 PER WEEK to pay for a new arena, and that is if the profits the new arena would take in does not cover the debt service.

Hey if that's the case, sign me up for 3.

So obviously money is not the issue here, unless there are people who are going to go into bankruptcy from an extra 31 cents to $1.12 per week on their tax bill.

Opponents of the project are plain and simple resorting to the one thing that is ruining not only life on Long Island, its making it awfully hard for this country to get anything done.

Newsday, owned by Cablevison and the same entity that owns the Rangers, which just so happens to own the currently being renovated Madison Square Garden. So ask yourself this question: With the new arena being constructed in Brooklyn, do you think the Dolans want another brand spanking new state of the art facility in their market as competition for the Garden?

While your thinking about that think about this: Remember how crazy the Dolan's went when the Jets wanted to put their stadium in Manhattan?

Yeah, I am really sure Jim Dolan would be crying a river if the new Coliseum does not get built.

Don't forget that Jim Dolan owns Newsday, you know, Long Island's newspaper.

The next major stinkfest at work here mucking up the water is partisan politics. Something that is so prevalent in today's American society that the stench of it reaches all the way to Washington DC.

Do you think the Democrats, who are still shell shocked from losing the Nassau County executive position to the Republicans want Mangano and the GOP to get credit for getting that new arena?

Partisan politics is something that could kill anything it touches because it is in my mind a mindless creeping disease that only serves to get worse over time.

There is no one, and i do mean absolutely no one who thinks that the Nassau Coliseum does not need to be replaced.

Everyone agrees that Long Island cannot afford to lose all the good that comes from having such a venue to go to without having to go to Brooklyn or Manhattan not just to see a hockey game, but for anything.

Pro Wrestling, Ice shows, circus events, Disney on Ice, Concerts the list goes on and on.

Yes the Islanders need a new home, we all know that. But this goes way beyond what the Islanders need. This is what Long Island and Nassau County needs. I would absolutely love to be able to bring my kids not only to an Islander game or two at this venue but maybe go see Monday Night Raw without having to sit uncomfortable in the seats that are so bad.

I am a Life long Nassau County resident. I am voting myself a tax increase tomorrow and for the first time I will know exactly where that tax money is going.

Can anyone tell me exactly where my tax increase dollars are going when I vote for a 4-12 percent school tax increase? They get over 56 million dollars to run my school district. Why do they need such a mammoth increase every single year?

Yet we keep doing it because of the signs they plaster all over the place that say "Vote for the Kids."

People will vote themselves anything as long as it is for the kids.

This arena is not for the kids. Its for EVERYONE.

You will hear account after account of people saying why we should vote no tomorrow.

They blame Chalres Wang for not building the arena with his own money.

Yeah OK, the guy is going to build something that essentially isn't his?

Everyone knew that his money went away when the Town of Hempstead killed the Lighthouse project.

Everyone says well the Giants, Jets, Mets and Yankees all built their new sports venues not with public money, but with private money.

Really? Really? REALLY?

Where did the land come from that the new Yankee stadium is built on? Where did the money come from to help pay for the new Football stadium in East Rutheford? How many tax breaks did the four of the richest sports franchises in the United States get to build their palaces?

The answers are right in front of you - in one way or another out of your pocket.

Instead of thinking about what Partisan politics or financial agendas are telling us to do why don't we look at that building sitting on Hempstead Turnpike in Uniondale and let that tell us what the right thing to do is.

Please post your comments below and if you would be so kind as to tell us why you think it should be a yes or no vote.

Monday, July 18, 2011

NHL Free Agency: Why the Islanders Should do Everything to get Drew Doughty

Opportunities like this do not come around often if it even is an opportunity.

Drew Doughty is arguably one of the best defensemen in the NHL and he is a free agent at the age of 21.

Yes I know he is a restricted free agent and signing him is not as simple as throwing the most money at him.

The Kings have the right to match any contract Doughty chooses to accept.

It is no secret the Islanders have the most cap space in the NHL right now and have millions and millions of dollars to spend to even just get to the NHL's mandated salary cap floor of $48.3 million dollars.

Meaning that if the Islanders are going to be salary cap compliant for this season they need to add about $9 million dollars in salary as per the current league rules.

Yes you read that right.

So how are they going to do that? they must have a bunch of restricted free agents to sign right?


The Islanders currently have three RFA's on the team. Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau and Jesse Joensuu.

Assuming the team resigns all three players, that would likely leave around five to six million to spend.

So where are they going to spend it.

I say Garth Snow: go out and do everything humanly possible to get Drew Doughty in Islander colors.

So what would it take to get him?

Well the Islanders would have to sign him to an offer sheet so extremely high that the Kings would walk away from their right to match or work out a trade.

Let us explore the most likely way it could happen and that is trade. What do you trade for a 21 year old all star defenseman?

Realistically, were talking a package of Calvin de Haan, Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson and two first round draft picks.

Then there is the matter of actually signing Doughty but that is something that Islanders GM Garth Snow should already have an idea of what it will take because Doughty is a free agent so negotiations could have already begun.

The other route is signing Doughty to a over priced offer sheet that the Kings would not be able to or unwilling to match.

How much would it take?

The Kings have just over nine million in cap space right now. So any deal with Doughty would have to be over that amount.

The beauty of it is is that if you sign Doughty to lets say a three year, 36 million dollar contract you would be paying him an average of 12 million dollars a season.

The Kings would not be able to match that and be cap compliant.

If they refuse to match, the Islanders would then have to pay restitution to the Kings in the form of four first round draft picks.

Either case the Islanders should be exhausting all avenues to get Drew Doughty if at all possible on his team.

Garth Snow, you want to show the world that the Islanders are for real?

I cannot think of a better way.

Can you?

Friday, July 8, 2011

NHL: Circumventing the Salary Cap: Why is it Allowed?

The NHL has the right to void contracts they feel circumvent the salary cap when they are presented to them when a player and an organization agree.

If this is the case, why have so many contracts been approved that so clearly are meant to get around the cap and lessen the cap hit over the length of the contract?

Lets examine some player contracts and why not go into the New York Rangers newest prized free agent signing Brad Richards.

The Rangers signed him to a nine year 60 million dollar contact, or an average of 6.6 million dollars a season. That doesn't sound so bad does it? Not on the surface it sure doesn't.

When you look closer it becomes more unsettling.

Looking at the contract it breaks down like this:

Year One - Age - 31 - Actual Salary: $12,000,000
Year Two - Age - 32 - Actual Salary: $12,000,000
Year Three - Age - 33 - Actual Salary: $9,000,000
Year Four - Age - 34 - Actual Salary: $8,500,000
Year Five - Age - 35 - Actual Salary: $8,500,000
Year Six - Age - 36 - Actual Salary: $7,000,000

Here is where it gets interesting.

Year Seven - Age - 37 - Actual Salary: $1,000,000
Year Eight - Age - 38 - Actual Salary: $1,000,000
Year Nine - Age - 39 - Actual Salary: $1,000,000

OK so what is going to happen between years one through six and years seven through nine? Does Glen Sather have some magical crystal ball that says Richards production as a player is going to drop by 1,200 percent from the start of his contract?

No it is a clear and concise way of reducing the cap hit the Rangers will incur to 6.6 million from the 9.5 million it would have been in years one through six.

How can the NHL or anyone else for that matter look at this contract and say its all fine and dandy and is within the rules of the NHL CBA and allow such blatant breaking of the rules in this case?

Hey do not blame the Rangers for this. They are not at fault for this disturbing trend. the blame falls solely on the NHL for allowing the practice.

Sure the Rangers have given out massive contracts before most recently to Wade Redden, Scott Gomez and Chris Drury and they were sort of front loaded in Gomez' case starting at $10,000,000 and reducing to $4,500,000 in the final year of the seven year $51,500,000 contract.

Sure that is an over 100 percent drop in value but no where near as egregious as Brad Richards new contract.

Let's examine some other questionable contracts.

Chris Pronger at age 35 signed a seven year contract worth $34,500,000 for an average cap hit of just over $4,900,000. Here is how this one breaks down.

Year One - Age - 35 - Actual Salary: $7,600,000
Year Two - Age - 36 - Actual Salary: $7,600,000
Year Three - Age - 37 - Actual Salary: $7,200,000
Year Four - Age - 38 - Actual Salary: $7,000,000
Year Five - Age - 39 - Actual Salary: $4,000,000

If the contract ended there, no one would say anything about it.

Here is where the interesting part is.

Year Six - Age - 40 - Actual Salary: $525,000
Year Seven - Age - 41 - Actual Salary: $525,000

Does anyone actually think Chris Pronger is going to play two years of hockey for $525,000 at age 40 and 41? Something tells me Pronger will be celebrating his retirement after cashing the last of his paychecks exactly two years before his contract expires.

Here is another head scratching contract.

Roberto Luongo is 32 years old and at age 31 signed a twelve year $64,000,000 contract with the Canucks. Smart move by the Canucks to get this guy tied up for the rest of his career right?

How the NHL allowed this contract to be approved is beyond comprehension.

The contract breaks down like this:

Year One - Age - 31 - Actual Salary: $10,000,000
Year Two - Age - 32 - Actual Salary: $6,716,000
Year Three - Age - 33 - Actual Salary: $6,716,000
Year Four - Age - 34 - Actual Salary: $6,716,000
Year Five - Age - 35 - Actual Salary: $6,716,000
Year Six - Age - 36 - Actual Salary: $6,716,000
Year Seven - Age - 37 - Actual Salary: $6,716,000
Year Eight - Age - 38 - Actual Salary: $6,716,000
Year Nine - Age - 39 - Actual Salary: $3,382,000
Year Ten - Age - 40 - Actual Salary: $1,618,000
Year Eleven - Age - 41 - Actual Salary: $1,000,000
Year Twelve - Age - 42 - Actual Salary: $1,000,000

Now tell me how the Canucks are not using the final three years when Luongo will be age 40-42 and well on his way to playing golf full time to lower the cap hit of this contract.

The Organizations in question are not at fault. They will do whatever the league allows them to to get one step ahead of the rest of the teams in the NHL.

Why have some organizations, like the Toronto Maple Leafs come out publicly and called contracts like the ones highlighted above cheating?

Why has the NHL not stepped in and nipped this one in the bud so to speak before the practice became more common?

These are not the only contracts that employ such a practice. Ilya Kovalchuck is the only instance where the league said enough is enough. But they allowed his restructured contract which is just as insultingly cap hit lowering than the first one which is 15 years in length and worth $100,000,000.

The last 5 years of the contract pay him $8,000,000 out of the total value of the contract.

How was his voided 17 year contract any less ridiculous?

There are other players signed to equally questionable contracts, Marian Hossa of the Blackhawks, Ilya Bryzgalov of the Flyers and Henrik Zetterberg of the Red Wings.

The NHL tried to fix this with the "Kovalchuck Amendment" which says that if a player retires before the end of his contract then the cap hit stays on the teams payroll for the duration of the contract.

OK that may work, but then what is a players incentive to stay and play for pennies on the dollar when he is way past his prime? Loyalty? Not many players are Niklas Lidstrom that can win major NHL awards at age 40.

The only answer is to make the cap hit of a contract the actual value the player is being paid instead of the average of the contract.

At this rate, the Rangers could have paid Brad Richards $60,000,000 dollars this season and then $1 every year after.

The CBA leveled the playing field when it was ratified the salary cap was $39,000,000. Six years later it is $64,000,000. We are right back in the situation we were in before the salary cap was implemented. The players have to be laughing at the NHL for thinking they got the short end of the stick back then.

So what will happen when the CBA is opened again for negotiation? Will the NHL insist on an actual numbers salary cap or continue the average method that allows teams to so easily get around the salary cap?

Something has to be done. Hopefully it does not result in another lost season.

Please post your thoughts below.