Je Me Souviens (I Remember), Mr. Wang

BC ISLEMANContributor IIMay 7, 2010

UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 03: Owner of the New York Islanders Charles Wang speaks with the media prior to the opening night game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Nassau Coliseum on October 3, 2009 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Quebec City is a lovely place. It is like a little slice of France that you can get without crossing an ocean and it is full of history.

Most of that history relates to the period before 1759 when French rule of what became Canada ended.

Eugène-Étienne Taché, a 19th century French-Canadian civil servant, coined the term "Je Me Souviens" (I Remember) which is now found on all Quebec license plates. His intent was to have all citizens of the province remember and honor their French heritage.

French-Canadians have no difficulty remembering that heritage. Citizens of Quebec City also remember a hockey team called, the Nordiques, that all too briefly (1972-1995) graced their fair city and enjoyed their complete devotion.

They also remember the sense of betrayal, when that team was sold away from them to the city of Denver, Colorado and renamed the Avalanche. The team broke Nordique fans hearts doubly by winning its first Stanley Cup that first year in Denver. That the memory of that team still has a hold on the hearts of all in Quebec City and its environs is evidenced by a recent rumor involving the New York Islanders.

The story carried across the web was that New York Islander owner, Charles Wang, was going to sell the team to an owner who would relocate it to Quebec City. 

A further rumor has Wang wheeling and dealing with Clément Gignac, Quebec's Minister of Economic Development, to move the team up there with an announcement coming this October.

True or untrue, the rumor certainly created a frenzy in the area. Those folks are desperate for a hockey team.

Of course, so are the good people of Hamilton, Ontario and of Winnipeg, Manitoba. There are many in Kansas City who would love to have their own team.

At the same time, fans of the New York Islanders are itching for reassurance that their team will not be going to any of those places, but will remain on Long Island — and yes, Queens is part of Long Island.

All of these people deserve an answer from Mr. Wang. Instead, Mr. Wang dithers or, as he would put it, explores his options. Doing so in secret, refusing to involve the fan base on which his team's success depends in the decision-making process.

Is it any wonder that rumors about Quebec or Kansas City flourish?

In fairness to Mr. Wang, the real villains of this piece are the Republican junta members running the Town of Hempstead.

They have delayed, deferred, and prevaricated endlessly in considering his Lighthouse development project. Their final answer seems to be a counter-proposal to be unveiled this summer.

When this plan is made public, Mr. Wang must act.

If he can live with the ToH plan, he should accept it. If not, he should immediately enter into negotiations with the Borough of Queens to build a new arena adjacent to CitiField.

The site has immediate access to the Long Island Railroad, the New York City subway system, the main arteries connecting New York City and Long Island, bridges to Connecticut and upstate New York, and Laguardia Airport. Fan base expansion possibilities are endless here.

What he cannot do is continue to explore his options past this summer.

Not only does the continued uncertainty create false hopes in the minds of fans in Quebec, Kansas City, and elsewhere, it also stunts the growth of the Islander fanbase. It is very hard for fans to commit to a team whose future is so uncertain.

It also interferes with the team's rebuilding process.

Garth Snow, Ryan Jankowski, Ken Morrow, and others have done a terrific job of putting together a championship core in just a few years.

Draft picks like Tavares, Bailey, De Haan, Hamonic, Petrov, and Lee as well as free agent finds Streit and Moulson give Islander fans real hope.

All of that could be placed in jeopardy if Mr. Wang doesn't act soon.

In the short term, lack of resolution regarding the team's future and a new or renovated facility will make it more difficult to obtain free agents who might help this team get back to the playoffs.

In the long term, it will make it more difficult to keep the talent so painstakingly accumulated when their contracts expire.

When I met you at a public hearing on Lighthouse in Mineola last year, Mr. Wang, you promised me you would do all that you could to keep the Islanders here.

Je Me Souviens, Mr. Wang. I remember. It is time for you to act.