With the CBA coming in the off-season and an expected drop in season ticket subscriptions, the Islanders yeterday announced a novel idea to get fans both new and old to subscribe to next season. That is, buy seaon tickets for next year at this year’s rates and the first two round of playoffs are FREE. If for some reason the Isles don’t make the playoffs, the next time the Isles make the playoffs, those fans would receive free tickets. And in case fans pay for their tickets and there is a work stoppage, fans will be 100% reimbursed + 2% interest for all missed games.
I have to give Charles Wang credit. He took a lot of heat from fans including myself for not being able to get through the first round of the playoffs, not make any major acquisitions to improve the team, and then raise ticket prices. The Isles ended up modifying their ticket prices in the 2nd half of the season because for the first time in 2 years, season subscriptions dropped. The Isles had 21 sellouts 2 years ago. That number has decreased dramatically. The Islanders say there are 7000 season subscribers now in a 16,300 seat facility. They want to greatly increase that number because apparently Nassau County and the Islanders within the next couple of months will be announcing plans for a new arena.

Wang says for first round games, he stands to lose $660,000 for every home first round game and potentially $750,000 for every second round game. However the Isles are convinced that the increase in season subscriptions will be enough to overcome the loss of playoff revenue which is where most teams end up making profits for the year since they do not have to pay the players extra money for that period.

The Isles said there are 5000 available subscriptions available between now and March 21st. 200 new subscriptions were taken in the first couple of hours. The Isles expect most of their 7000 current fans to return.

This poses an interesting situation for the Isles. Do they go after a heavy hitting player by the trade deadline or do they stand pat? One could argue that if the Isles went and got a Pronger or Satan or Witt as has been rumored, they would stand a much better chance to get to the 3rd round where Wang would make money on the games. They would also generate a ton of excitement and fans would pay for next season to get playoff tickets for free. Obviously the Isles budget is a question. Pronger makes something like $9 million a year and will become an unrestricted free agent. Do the Isles send solid minor leaguers and/or high draft picks for a rental? There is no guarantee Pronger would stay and the Isles most likely would have to deal Hamrlik or Niinimaa or Peca in the off-season to pair down the salary structure. Witt would be a good fit but is he a difference maker? Satan is a difference maker and the Isles have had good trade relations with Buffalo in the past, but Regier is on the hot seat and the Sabres probably wouldn’t want Satan in the East where he could help eliminate the Sabres from contention next season.

On the otherhand, the Isles might say lets stand pat. We have already decided to lose this year playoff revenue. If we get knocked out in the first like the past two years, I would only lose at most just under $2 million yet I have dramatically increased season subscriptions for next season.

I think it would be in the Isles best interest to get that big player if possible without giving up the shop. It would increase their interest level. It would put the Isles back on the map here in NY and it would realistically give them a chance to advance past round 1. The Isles fans are realists. We know we aren’t going to win a cup. But could we be a sleeper team that upsets a few, absolutely. The Isles have won the season series with Ottawa, have played even with Tampa and Boston, are winning the series NJ and currently are winning the season series with Toronto (that might change on Thursday) however, even with a loss, they would have tied the season series. The only teams in the East they have not fared well against are Philly and Montreal (and the Rangers, but they won’t make it).

I think what the Isles have done with this offer is terrific and more teams should consider their commitment to the fans. I just hope now that the fans get to see more than just one round of the playoffs.