As we wait for the start of the real hockey season, Gary Bettman spent a few minutes earlier this morning talking with Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton on WFAN. I know, I'm as shocked as you that there was actual hockey talk on the FAN.
In any case, Boomer asked Bettman about the current situation of the Isles. Bettman praised Charles Wang's ownership and noted that fans shouldn't worry about the team as long as the Lighthouse project is approved, and he mentioned that the town and the team are progressing well. But he made sure to mention that the Isles very much need a new or renovated arena soon.
Now, what Bettman said is probably no surprise to most Isles fans, but it underscores what needs to happen to keep the Islanders on Long Island. With the Atlantic Yards facility in Brooklyn looking very unlikely right now, the Lighthouse project would appear to be the last opportunity for the Isles. Should the town of Hempstead kill the project (and assuming the rumor of Pilgrim State in Suffolk as an alternate site is merely a rumor), the great likelihood would be that the Islanders would move into a lame duck format until out-of-town ownership purchases the team and moves it off the Island.
The Lighthouse project and the progression of the youth will be the two main storylines as the Isles open up their 2008-09 season next week. While no one expects the Isles to contend for a playoff spot, many fans will be content if new coach Scott Gordon can turn the young Islanders into a potent force by the end of the season. And if the Isles can get the Lighthouse approved, then in spite of what is almost sure to be a terrible record, it will be a productive year for the Islanders franchise.