Former Islanders owner Charles B. Wang, who fought to keep the team on Long Island, died on Sunday. Wang was 74 years old.
There was no cause of death provided and a lawyer for Wang said, according to Newsday, that he passed away with his family around him.
“The National Hockey League lost a dear friend today with the passing of New York Islanders minority owner Charles Wang,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “His commitment to, and passion for, his beloved Islanders was matched by his dedication to, and support for, the Long Island community. As the NHL embarks on a journey to grow hockey in China, we do so with the appreciation and knowledge that it was Charles who was the vision and driving force at the forefront of developing the game in his native country. We also owe Charles a great debt of gratitude for all that he did in pioneering video streaming of our League so that hockey fans around the world could connect with the NHL.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Nancy, children Kimberly, Jasmine and Cameron and his many friends around the world.”
Wang had been a fixture on Long Island, first founding Computer Associates and then as owner of the Islanders from 2000 to 2016. He sold majority control of the team to Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin in 2014 with a two-year transition of majority ownership.
Wang retained a minority stake in the team.
“We are heartbroken by the news of Charles Wang’s passing. New York Islanders’s co-owners Dewey Shay, Scott Malkin and I were privileged to be selected by Charles to be his partners in the team,” Ledecky said in a statement. “Charles loved the Islanders unconditionally. The arena at Belmont Park will be just one of his many legacies left to the team and to Long Island. His unique personality, his wonderful sense of humor and his extraordinary wisdom will be greatly missed.”
“He treasured his association with the team and its devoted fans,” Wang’s family said in a statement to Newsday.
Wang, who was born in Shanghai, China and moved to the United States with his family when he was 8, was a proud Long Islander who purchased the Islanders out of a sense of civic duty to keep the Islanders on Long Island. It was former U.S. Senator Al D’Amato who helped convince Wang to buy the Islanders in 2000.
“We feel Long Island deserves a competitive franchise,” Wang said, according to the New York Post, in 2000.
Wang, then 55 later added: “We want to make the New York Islanders the world-class sports franchise that our community deserves, wants and needs.”
While the Islanders saw some early success on the ice during the first few years of Wang’s tenure as owner, the purse strings got tighter as years went on and the team continued to lose money and Wang’s fight for a new arena stalled.
Wang went through two separate attempts to build a new arena on the Nassau Coliseum site and develop the 77 acres around the venue. It was in 2004 when Wang first proposed the Lighthouse Project, which would have overhauled the outdated Coliseum and created a mixed-use development on the property.
The battle to see the proposal turned into realty lasted several years while partisan politics and the Town of Hempstead eventually killed the $3.8 billion project. A referendum for a $400 million bond to build a new arena and minor league baseball stadium was voted down in August of 2011.
Wang eventually moved the team to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2015.
“It was our goal from day one to keep the Islanders in the local New York area,” Wang said in 2012. “
Outside of hockey, Wang was the chairman and CEO of Computer Associates until 2000. He also brought arena football to Long Island, purchasing the Iowa Barnstormers and relocating the franchise to Long Island in 2001.
The team was rebranded the New York Dragons.
Wang was also a co-owner of the tech company, NeuLion and purchased a majority stake in the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League in 20014. Majority control of the Sound Tigers also transferred to Ledecky and Malkin.