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NHL will have final say on Islanders’ home playoff games, Gary Bettman says

SAN JOSE — If Islanders fans had a vote about where potential playoff home games would be played, it would be a landslide. If opposing players had their choice, the result likely would be just as definitive in the other direction. As it is, though, National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday that the league will have the final say.

He did not indicate if he is leaning either way, nor would he comment on whether the Islanders will be able to play all of their home games at Nassau Coliseum next season.

“It will be a collaborative decision among the Islanders, the Barclays — their landlord, whether it’s in Nassau or in Barclays Center — and the league,” Bettman said during his annual state-of-the-NHL news conference during All-Star weekend. “I suppose the league has final say but at the appropriate time, all parties will get together and figure out what the best way to approach the playoffs would be — if the Islanders make the playoffs.”

Fans have expressed great hope that the games would be at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, where the energy and noise for regular season games has been exceptional and where the Islanders have a 5-1-1 record in their return this season. But Barclays Center has greater seating capacity and many more luxury suites, which produce high revenue.

Long Islanders also have been pushing, especially through social media, to move all home games to the Coliseum next year, up from the half-schedule being held in the team’s original home in 2018-19. When he was asked about that, Bettman said, “We haven’t focused on where the games will be played next season.”

All of this, of course, revolves around the plan to build a permanent home for the Islanders on the grounds of Belmont Park. Residents have made public their objections, on the basis of traffic and other concerns, at hearings recently. But the commissioner remains optimistic about the initiative.

“The reports that we’re getting on the Belmont project are that everyone seems to be on track, we hope to have a groundbreaking in May or June,” he said.

Nassau Coliseum has been a sensitive, passionate and powerful issue during the Islanders’ surprising rise to first place this season. After experiencing the atmosphere and advantage it brings to the home team, Barry Trotz said right after the Dec. 1 return that the building would be worth about 12 points over the course of an entire season.

All-Star defenseman Seth Jones of the Blue Jackets, a member of the visiting team in that first regular-season game back on Long Island (and son of Popeye Jones, who was an assistant coach of the Nets at Barclays Center) addressed the factor without having specifically been asked. During media day here Thursday night, he was questioned about what has put the Islanders ahead of the Metropolitan Division at the break and said, “Have you seen that building? Come on!”

But the economics of the situation offer a different picture for the league and for Barclays, which operates both arenas.

Bettman’s chief topic during his address was the league’s new high-tech player and puck tracking system that will be used in all games next season. It will be previewed during the telecast of the All-Star Game (actually a three-on-three tournament) Saturday night.

He said it can “can track pucks at the rate of 2,000 times per second with inch-level accuracy. It will instantaneously detect passes, shots and positioning precisely. It will be equally accurate in tracking players, their movements, their speed, their time on ice, you name it.”

The system uses sensors on each player’s uniform and a chip in each puck. In testing during two recent regular-season games, including the Rangers’ visit to Las Vegas, data showed that Brent Burns of the Sharks and Jonathan Marchessault of the Golden Knights each skated more than three miles and that William Karlsson of Vegas skated faster than 20 miles per hour.

Bettman said, “We think many of our fans, especially the innovation generations, the millennials and Gen Z, are going to love this new frontier.”

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