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February 16, 2011

Sports territorial rights put Newark, Brooklyn and the N.Y. Islanders at a disadvantage

by Evan Weiner

An interesting perspective on the business of sports, especially as it pertains to the New York metropolitan area.

When Mikhail Prokhorov arrives in Brooklyn with his New Jersey Nets franchise, can he bring with him a National Hockey League team — specifically the New York Islanders? The answer according to someone who has been around hockey for a long time is no because the Madison Square Garden's owners, the Dolan family, and the league won't allow Charles Wang's Islanders to invade New York Rangers territory.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has thrown water on the idea that Wang's Islanders could move about 20 miles west of the franchise's present location in Uniondale. The NHL does have the right to control franchises shifts as does the National Basketball Association according to the latest court case (the 2009 Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy proceedings in Judge Redfield Baum's courtroom in Phoenix) involving a league and that league's ability to control franchise shifts. In 1994, NBA Commissioner David Stern and the majority of the league's 27 owners blocked the sale of the Minnesota Timberwolves to New Orleans interests led by boxing promoter Bob Arum. The Arum group planned to move the Minneapolis franchise to New Orleans.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has already met with Stern to discuss the possibility of replacing Prokhorov's Newark-based franchise with another NBA team. It is hard to imagine Stern warming up to the idea of putting a third team in the New York metropolitan area although ultimately it is the NBA owners, not Stern, that decides where a franchise can operate.

American sports is not a private entity.

It is a government-subsidized business. Cities are building stadiums and arenas for teams and in some cases paying owners outright to make sure the owner keeps a franchise in town like Louisiana does with New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. The "major league" sports industry has grown financially thanks to antitrust exemptions and all sorts of tax breaks for owners.


NoLandGrab: Just a couple quibbles. First, the arena would have to be substantially retrofitted to accommodate professional ice hockey, and given the Bruce's money woes, that's not likely to happen any time soon. Second, many Brooklynites would have been much happier if the Dolan's had had a kill button for the Nets, too.

Posted by eric at February 16, 2011 10:54 AM