Wangs go fromGood players, fans, sponsors and financial backing are ingredients the Hawaiian Islanders need to stay around awhile.
hockey to arena ball
Charles Wang and his daughter
are trying to make arena
football successful in Hawaii
By Nick Abramo
They're working hard to develop three of those things, but the other one -- financial backing -- is already solid.
We're not talking grassroots here.
Charles B. Wang, who bought the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League to save the franchise from leaving Long Island, showed his commitment to Hawaii by attending Gov. Ben Cayetano's reception for the new arenafootball2 league team last week.
The owner/operator's presence showed that he's not strictly a behind-the-scenes guy.
"My close friends know how much Hawaii means to me," Wang said. "And I can tell you from experience -- he's also the owner of the New York Dragons of af2 -- that there isn't a sport that has more action, excitement and enthusiasm than arena football."
Wang's daughter, Kimberly, lives in Windward Oahu and is also an owner/operator of the team as well as its founder.
The special relationship the two share wasn't lost on those in attendance at the Washington Place reception.
"They say the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree," Charles Wang said. "But I don't want to say that because she'll accuse me of calling her a nut."
Kimberly Wang explained how the Hawaiian Islanders evolved from just a thought to reality, or, if you will, how the acorn has become a sapling.
"It was more my dad's idea," she said in an interview. "He started thinking about an arena team for Hawaii when he visited and noticed there's no professional team here. I told him that UH was pretty much (the sports that people go to see).
"When he heard that, he thought we should actually go ahead and bring an arena football team here. Since then, it's been one idea after another (in pulling it all together). I'll have a good idea, and he has to top me with another idea, and then I try to top him. It's dangerous."
"Yes, it's dangerous because there's nothing you can't do if you put your mind to it."
Charles Wang is extremely proud of his New York Islanders, who were the worst among 30 NHL teams last year, but are fifth in the league's 15-team Eastern Conference so far this season.
"And did you know we have five guys in the Olympics, too," he was sure to point out.
Kimberly Wang, trying to one-up her dad, divulged something she hasn't told him yet.
"One of my secret hopes is for my team (Islanders) to play his team (Dragons) in the championship game. And I hope we would win because I don't think he would let me live it down if we didn't."
Charles Wang said arena football can be likened to hockey without the ice because of the short 50-yard field with sideboards.
Islanders defensive coordinator Al Noga, the former NFL star and arena football player, agrees with that assessment. Believe it or not, he's not a total stranger to the sport.
"When I was in Minnesota (playing for the Vikings), I used to love to go to the (University of Minnesota) Gophers games," he said. "Hockey is a lot more physical than I had thought."
Noga said an injury is keeping him from playing.
"I signed a contract for the New England Sea Wolves (arena team) in 2000, but I ended up coming home when I needed surgery on my ankle," he said. "It has taken a long time to heal, a lot longer than I expected. If I could run, I would be playing instead of coaching."
Noga wants to pursue the coaching avenue and would eventually like to be a head coach.
He acknowledged that most of the Islanders players attending tryouts/workouts haven't played for a while, but added that a month should be enough time to prepare for the season opener March 30 against the Fresno Frenzy at the Blaisdell Arena.
Noga is especially enjoying working on the defensive side of the ball with the team's linemen and hopes some dynamic individuals who can play the league-required both ways emerge from the pack.
"We definitely need good linemen, because they turn around and play offense, too," he said. "That's where the excitement of this game is."
Excitement is exactly what Charles Wang is trying to promote.
"Just to be there and see a sellout crowd and hear the roar is what I like the most about being an owner," he said.
One of Wang's Islanders teams -- the New York version -- returns to action after the Olympic break against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.
With a matter-of-fact tone, the owner of the growing Islanders Kingdom said, "We'll win."
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