Islanders set August 1st date for referendum to build new arena

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Yesterday we told you about how the Islanders had a major announcement to make about plans surrounding a possible new arena for the team on Long Island.

Today during an elaborate press conference at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Hempstead, all the Islanders and local dignitaries gathered to announce that Nassau County has set an August 1 date for a referendum on whether or not to approve $400 million in bonds to help build a new arena on the site. $350 million of that will go to build a new arena while the other $50 million will go towards building a minor league baseball park.

Islanders owner Charles Wang, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, and Town of Hempstead supervisor Kate Murray were on hand for the announcement and for these parties to come together on an agreement is a miracle unto itself.

In the past, Wang has pressed Murray and the Hempstead government to press ahead with his plan to build the Lighthouse Project that was planned to build a new arena as well as develop the grounds where the Nassau Coliseum is now into a major attraction for the area with hotels, restaurants, and shopping areas to support the new arena. Murray fought hard against Wang over his ideas and they were ultimately put by the wayside in favor of this new deal.

Former Islanders PR man turned Islanders exiled blogger Chris Botta gave his thoughts on this new deal and says that if this isn’t approved, the Islanders could be on their way out of town when the Isles lease at Nassau Coliseum runs out in 2015. One thing working in their favor is the date for the vote.

The key here is Aug. 1. Think about it. The vote is not going to be on Election Day, when tens of thousands of Nassau residents would be in position for a knee-jerk rejection of a $400 million expense by a bankrupt county. (The fact is, county taxes are not expected to go up if Wang gets the dough for his building on the Coliseum property. The bond will be covered by eventual revenue from the new facility).

The Aug. 1 date, mandated by Mangano, naturally irks the opposition. Aug. 1 is a Monday in the summer. Think about the people who will be inspired to vote Yes or No, to make the effort to drive to the polling stations to take a stand on one issue on a Monday during a Long Island summer.

Islanders fans have been the key to getting things going on this all along and if you think they’re not going to show up at the polls to approve the funds needed to replace the NHL’s oldest and most run down building, you’ve been hitting the wineries in The Hamptons a bit too hard.

If the voters do approve the referendum, then it’s a huge win for the Islanders because they’ll finally have a facility worthy of the modern age to help market the team not just to fans but to prospective players as well. If the voters say no, however, Charles Wang would likely be exhausted dealing with things in Long Island and then look to do something drastic either by selling the team or start fishing around for a new city with less headaches to deal with to take the Islanders.

We’ll see how the politics of things work out over the summer, but the key here is that this doesn’t turn into a play on public money as the bonds taken out to build the facilities will be paid off with the revenues made at them. It’s a smart way to do things and it takes the pressure off the taxpayers who may not want anything to do with the project. If you’re looking to compare it to what’s gone on in Glendale with the Coyotes, that difference is a marked one.

While the Isles will be busy this summer looking to improve the team on the ice, it’s up to the voters to see if they want to keep them around for an extended stay.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.