"I think the Islanders' prospects are strong," he said during an interview with Mike Francesa. "They’re putting together a good, young team and they’re moving to a state-of-the-art arena. Even thought it wasn’t specifically designed for hockey it will certainly improve things for them and their fans."
The franchise is coming of its most successful offseason in quite some time. General Manager Garth Snow improved the Islanders at every position that had holes. He brought in goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson to shore up goaltending. Snow added Nikolay Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski to add more scoring, and traded for top-4 defenseman Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk.
They are also set leave the Nassau Coliseum, their home since 1972, for Brooklyn's Barclays Center next year. In addition, the Islanders recently announced a transition in ownership over the next two years. Charles Wang will move from a majority ownership role to allow new owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin to take control.
The deal to sell the team to Ledecky and Malkin was approved last week, but is still to be finalized between the parties.
"Charles’ intention is to stay in as well, but as life moves I think he wants the opportunity to focus on other things," Bettman said. "With Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky, the franchise is getting two really first-rate, quality people, who are enthused about hockey in New York and the Islanders in particular."
Wang will remain majority owner for the final season in Uniondale and the first year in Brooklyn.
Barclays Center has a unique layout for hockey since the venue was built with basketball in mind, but Bettman does not see it as much of an issue.
"I think there aren’t a whole lot of changes that they can make that would be materially significant," he responded when asked about the Barclays Center setup by Francesa. "The fact is the seating capacity will be around 15,000 and I’m OK with that. It’s not going to be bigger in terms of unobstructed seats because of the way the sight lines were configured. There have been a couple of instances where basketball teams that (were) building buildings thought it was a good idea to make the sight lines specific to basketball and in both cases I think if they had to do it over again they wouldn’t have done that. But it is what it is and it is certainly an upgrade from the Nassau Coliseum."
The Islanders struggle to get a new arena on Long Island has been well-documented and Bettman sees it as a quality of life issue. There are plans to renovate the Coliseum once the team departs for its new home.
Bettman sees it as a loss for Nassau County, but is excited for what lies ahead for the franchise.
"With different leadership and different leadership approaches I think people could have understood that it really would have made sense to the quality of life in Nassau County for a new arena and a complex to be built," he said. "...there are good reasons, both economically and quality of life, for a community to get involved with these projects, but that didn’t happen. The great news is everybody at the Islanders and I think most fans are excited about the prospects of a new arena in Brooklyn.
"Brooklyn is going through a great resurgence and it’s going to be fun for the Islanders to be a part of that."