For reasons that are, well, just flat out strange, the team has cancelled the trip over "disagreements" with the NHLPA. And the word disagreements is in quotes because I'm not sure if you can really call them that or if there's some underlying reason.
According to Katie Strang, the team and, more specifically, the owner balked when confronted with a few requests from the NHLPA. Months earlier the two sides had agreed on the trip, but Monday Strang writes that two of the NHLPA's requests -- which the NHLPA claims were made during the initial discussions -- upset Wang, causing him to cancel the trip.
So, with the Islanders having to put down a large deposit for the trip due on Friday, its owner canceled the whole endeavor. Kind of odd considering the requests from the NHLPA weren't exactly ridiculous, but that leads me to believe there's more than meets the eye here.As they have done in several similar situations in the past, the NHLPA wanted to send representatives to China before the Islanders embarked on their trip to make sure all facilities complied with certain standards.
Although an innocuous and reasonable request on behalf of the NHLPA, Islanders owner and China native Charles Wang anticipated the tenuous situation it may create with the Chinese, objected to such a request and the deal subsequently fell through last Friday.
Wang also opposed the NHLPA's request for a donation to the NHLPA that would be gifted back to help fund children's hockey programs in China, although the request was a mere "suggestion," according to NHLPA spokesperson Jonathan Weatherdon.
Wang has spent a lot of money on youth hockey programs in China (and Long Island) and has hosted an invitational youth tournament each winter, the Charles B. Wang Ice Hockey Project Hope Tournament. The tournament consists of teams from the local area, Europe and China and has been held both in China and on Long Island. So, to say Wang wasn't willing to spend the money to take his team to China is an easy answer but likely isn't the reason here. He's obviously been willing to open up his check book for youth programs both locally and abroad and has, you know, been propping up a team that has been consistently losing money for almost a decade.
So what's the reason?
There is really no obvious answer here.
This being the NHLPA and the New York Islanders, all bets are off. The former has had its fair share of infighting and leadership issues. The latter is so good at keeping secrets and making some bizarre moves of its own, you'll never know quite what the motive is.
The case to say this was a financial move by the Islanders is inconclusive. As I wrote, this is a team whose owner is not known for necessarily being a penny-pincher but the team itself does try to squeeze the fans on occasion. They've been known to give in-game prizes consisting of t-shirts with the names of ex-players on the back and earlier this year dragged their feet through offering any kind of sympathy to fans who couldn't justify coming out to see the team during a blizzard (though they did give in eventually).
Maybe this was a plan that was failed from the get-go? Strang writes that the team and NHLPA had agreed on the trip months earlier, but behind the scenes couldn't it be possible that it wasn't quite finalized? And when push came to shove the NHLPA didn't give in to whatever Wang was asking for so Wang didn't risk footing the bill for the deposit.
So here I am, just really confused about this whole situation that appears to have fallen apart because of a request for inspections and a donation to youth hockey. The Islanders aren't talking except to confirm that the trip is cancelled and the NHLPA is washing its hands of any wrongdoing. The Islanders -- and specifically Wang -- likely won't talk, given their tendency to secrecy (for example, the Lighthouse Project turning into Area 51 in recent months). And this whole thing will eventually blow over and be forgotten about.
The winners in all this?
Well, maybe Saskatoon will get to rent an NHL team for a couple weeks in September.