ELMONT, N.Y. — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was thrilled when he visited UBS Arena, the next home of the New York Islanders, on Wednesday.
“It is simply breathtaking,” Commissioner Bettman said after being escorted on a tour of the venue by Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky and Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group, a partner in UBS Arena. “For everybody who’s been associated with moving this project along, whether it’s the private sector or the public sector, everybody should be incredibly proud of this. This is a great moment for Long Island and the entire metropolitan area.
The Islanders are set to begin play at UBS Arena next season. It will hold 17,113 fans for hockey, an increase from 13,917 at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders played at the Coliseum from 1972-2015 and won four straight Stanley Cup championships from 1980-83. They moved to Barclays Center in Brooklyn before returning to the Coliseum full time at the start of last season. Construction on UBS Arena began in September 2019.
“I was in the building when the Islanders won their first Cup at home,” Commissioner Bettman said. “I think I was a young lawyer at the time. The site of seeing the Stanley Cup being presented … remember, in those days, before the other leagues started copying us, we were the only sport that presented the trophy in front of the fans. I remember being overwhelmed by the experience. That had nothing to do with me personally in terms of what would subsequently come. That was me as a hockey fan being at a spectacular event.
“The fact is there are great memories in the Nassau Coliseum, but the due date has long expired. It was well past time to move on. But this building is going to be incredibly loud. The height of the roof is the same as it is at the Nassau Coliseum, and I think there are 4,000 more seats. So as loud as Nassau has been, and some have suggested it may be the loudest in the League, this building is going to be even louder.”
The Islanders and their fans hoped for a state-of-the-art facility when Charles Wang purchased the team in 2000. Wang, who died in 2018, tried multiple ways to keep them on the Coliseum site but was unsuccessful.
“There has always been an incredible fan base for the Islanders,” Commissioner Bettman said. “I grew up pretty close to here. Throughout the metropolitan area, there’s always been a passionate fan base, a committed fan base, and you’re seeing it now more than ever.
“There has not been a detail that has been overlooked. The building is incredibly well-designed and fan friendly. It’s going to be great not just for the Islanders, but concerts and family shows. This is really going to be a gathering not just for Long Island, but for the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan area.”
The Islanders can be among the last four teams remaining for the second straight season with a win against the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Second Round at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS). Ledecky, who will be in attendance, said the Islanders played “with such courage and guts” during their 5-4 win in Game 5 at Boston on Monday.
Ledecky credited the recent run of success to the hirings of general manager Lou Lamoriello and coach Barry Trotz after the 2017-18 season. New York has not missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs since.
“It doesn’t hurt to have a Hall of Fame general manager and a man destined for the Hall of Fame in Barry Trotz,” Ledecky said. ” … I think this building has helped, in a very subtle way, propel the players to better performance. … They want to go out as best as they can at Nassau Coliseum, but they know they’re coming here, and they’re expected here to compete for the Stanley Cup every year.
“Under Lou and Barry, we want to be contending for the Stanley Cup every year in a beautiful new building for fans who deserve it after so many years and almost decades of waiting for something that was comparable to the heritage of the New York Islanders.”