The New York Islanders have had six majority owners groups buy the team throughout their 47 season history. Some of the owners will go down as Islander heroes while others, we may want to forget.
With the Islanders getting their own arena in 2021 thanks to the majority owners, it would be a good time to look back and rank our owners based off three factors: team Success, what the owner did for the future of the team and the downsides of their time as the owner.
#6. John Spano
This should come as no surprise to any Islander fan. John Spano nearly single-highhandedly ruined the New York Islanders in their already struggling times. Spano fraudulently purchased the New York Islanders in 1996 through forged documents and his peers supporting his supposed $230 million dollar wealth, when in reality he was barely worth $5 million. In the one year the Islanders technically played under Spano, they only managed to put up 29 wins in a seventh place finish in their division, missing the playoffs. Spano was eventually exposed and was thrown in jail for charges of fraud for over 5 years.
#5. Howard Milstein and Steven Gluckstern
The owners that eventually bought the team in 1997 after John Spano was tossed in the jail cell were not expected to be much better than Spano himself with Islander fans losing interest after rumors of moving. To no one’s surprise, they only bought the team to make as much money as they can without caring for the team. The first actions they did as owners was to trade players to avoid paying their salaries, including Islander favorites Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe, Trevor Linden, “Ziggy” Palffy, Bryan Berard and Rich Pilon. The Islanders three seasons during their time as owners went as well as expected after trading away top players, they never made the playoffs once averaging a measly 62 points each year.
#4. Roy Boe
Roy Boe was the man who brought an NHL team to the Island. He paid a $5 million territorial fee to the New York Rangers ($29.95 million today) just to convince the owners of the Rangers to allow a team in the New York area. The team wasn’t good in the beginning but Boe was the person to lay the foundation for the core of the Dynasty. Boe brought in Hall Of Fame coach Al Arbour in 1972 and convinced California Golden Seals Vice President Bill Torrey to manage the team from the start. Boe was the owner for the majority of the ’70s and in that time the Islanders averaged 92 points a season and made it to the playoffs four times in his six year reign. Boe would eventually have his wealth run dry with Boe owing the NHL $20 million in owner fees. After fans kept being disappointed with their playoff exits after being named cup favorites multiple times, ticket sales started to drop, forcing Boe to sell the team.
#3. John Pickett
John Pickett was the owner during the Dynasty. Purchasing the team from Boe in 1978 and immediately seeing the potential in the team, he made a deal with a local sports channel promptly named “Sports Channel.” You might know them today as MSG. The deal gave Picket $10 million ($38 million today) a year for exclusive rights, a revenue stream that would help pay for fees owed by Boe when he sold the team. Pickett made Torrey President of Hockey Operations, meaning Torrey only had to answer to Pickett and Pickett only. Torrey now had financial freedom to trade for grizzled veteran Butch Goring, who was a major factor in the four cup dynasty. During his time as the owner, Pickett’s Islanders won four cups straight, the first American team to have that much success. Like every owner, Pickett had some downsides. A small rivalry with Red Wings owner made Pickett force Torrey to pick Detroit raised Pat Lafontaine in the first round in the 1983 draft, ignoring the Islanders needs. With the Red Wings advertised pick being stripped away, the Red Wings had to settle for Steve Yzerman. In 1997, Pickett sold the team without background checking the proposers wealth independently. John Spano eventually bought the team. This was his biggest downfall.
#2. Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky
This may come as a surprise. Since their purchase of the Islanders in 2014, Malkin and Ledecky have done almost everything right. Ledecky is the man for the fans and press and Malkin is behind the scenes. They’ve got the fans a new arena on LONG ISLAND. They brought in a guaranteed Hall Of Fame coach and general manager in Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoreillo. I still cannot believe I am typing this. What they promised on, they have succeeded on. Although John Tavares leaving was hard on the fans, these owners let Lamoriello spend that money on role players rather than saving it for their profit. Bringing in Islander favorites Robin Lehner and Matt Martin, on top of other role players contributing to the Islanders best season since their dynasty days, was a great move.
#1. Charles B. Wang
Charles Wang was hands down the greatest owner in Islanders history. Wang fought tooth and nail to keep this team on Long Island, making multiple proposals to the Governors of Long Island for a new home for the Islanders. First the Lighthouse Project in 2007 which would place a 5-star hotel, offices and a ball park around a renovated Nassau Coliseum. The deal fell through due to the slow response times in negotiations between Wang and the Town Of Hempstead. Wang then proposed another project in 2010 with Mets owner Jeff Wilpon to have the Islanders move to the adjacent lot across from Citi Field in Willets Point, Queens. That deal fell through after Newsday exposed that a study of the adjacent lot was not true. Eventually, Wang proposed one last project to keep the Islanders in Nassau County, a downsized version of the Lighthouse Project which would mainly prioritize the rebuilding of Nassau Coliseum. Eventually on May 11, 2011, the project was denied by Long Island voters. Wang did everything in his power and eventually found a deal in 2012 with the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on a deal that heavily favored the owners of the Barclays Center. Wang, after completing his 12 year mission to find the Islanders a new home, he sold the team to Malkin and Ledecky. They promised him a more suitable home for their beloved team.
Belmont Park will be the gift from beyond from our best owner. Rest In Peace Charles Wang. Thank you for saving our New York ISLANDers.