Twelve years ago today, the fate of the NY Islanders was in the hands of Nassau County residents. A $400M bond was put to vote on whether to approve a replacement for the outdated Nassau Coliseum. The late Charles Wang hoped to build a minor league baseball park, a convention center, and shopping space in addition to the new hockey arena.
The referendum ultimately failed 57 to 43 percent after nearly everything went wrong for the Islanders that day, with low voter turnout due to severe storms and Long Island Rail Road delays. The Isles had just four years left on their lease at the Coliseum, and it appeared they'd soon be searching for a new home.
While thousands of Islanders fans showed up at the polls in blue and orange, they were outnumbered by those unwilling to part with $58 per household, while the number was closer to $13 once all revenues were accounted for. The project would have created thousands of jobs and brought in millions of dollars of revenue for the county and its residents.
Wang, who put much of his life into the development of Long Island with the Islanders at the center of it, was devastated about the results. “I have to tell you that I’m disappointed. To tell you bluntly, I’m heartbroken," said Wang.
Wang wasn't willing to let the team relocate to Kansas City or Quebec so easily, as he continued to fight for the Islanders to remain on Long Island. As construction on the newly built Barclays Center in nearby Brooklyn was complete, that quickly became an option for Wang and the Isles. While not the perfect match, it kept the team local, which was most important.
On October 21, 2018, Wang passed away, never to see the newly built, hockey-first UBS Arena. The man who fought to keep the Islanders on Long Island had done so, even if it was posthumously.
While Wang's hockey-related decison making wasn't always the greatest, he did everything with the best intentions and thought about the fans and people of Long Island first. Every August 1, it's difficult not to think of Wang and his efforts leading up to that difficult day.
Now 12 years after the fact, it doesn't seem all too long ago the future of the franchise was in limbo. With two trips to the Conference Finals, new ownership, and new management, the team is in one of its best places since the dynasty era (even though it's tough to feel that was sometimes). When times are difficult following playoff elimination or amid a losing streak, at least it's taking place on Long Island and not anywhere else.