Charles B. Wang, a co-owner of the New York Islanders hockey team, passed away Sunday, October 21, 2018 in Oyster Bay, New York. He was 74 years old. The director of communications for the professional team said that Wang had been battling lung cancer, according to Newsday.
Wang was credited over the years for fighting to keep the hockey team on Long Island. Prior to purchasing the Islanders in 2000, Wang knew nothing about hockey. He had only ever seen just one hockey game. According to a statement put out by the team’s ownership upon his death, Wang was asked to buy the Islanders because the organization had been struggling and needed a boost. Wang reportedly understood the team’s value to the community and wanted to make sure the hockey club did not leave Long Island. (The Islanders went to Brooklyn in 2015).
Wang was the majority owner of the Islanders for more than a decade. In 2009, he told Newsday that while he was glad to have saved the team from leaving Long Island in 2000, he ultimately regretted the purchase. Wang reportedly put about $23 million each year into keeping the team operational. He told the news outlet, “If I had the chance, I wouldn’t do it again.” Wang eventually sold the team to investors and became a minority co-owner in 2016.
Co-owner Jon Ledecky said in the team’s statement on Wang’s death: “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. 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.”
General Manager Lou Lamoriello added to the statement, “Charles Wang was a great man. He always spoke of his love for the Long Island community and the passionate fan base. Long Island would not have a team if it were not for Charles. Most importantly, we’ve all lost a great friend. Our deepest sympathies to his wife Nancy and children Kimberly, Jasmine, and Cameron.”
Other professional hockey teams paid tribute to Wang upon his passing. There was a moment of silence at Madison Square Garden in New York City, prior to the New York Rangers-Calgary Flames game. The Arizona Coyotes and the Montreal Canadiens shared their condolences on Twitter.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement as well. He touched on the fact that Wang was crucial in helping to promote hockey around the world by leading the charge to stream games online.
Bettman’s statement reads: “The National Hockey League lost a dear friend today with the passing of New York Islanders minority owner Charles Wang. 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 deal 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.”
Charles Wang was born in Shanghai, China. His family moved to the United States when he was 8 years old. He attended Queens College in New York, and studied math and physics. In 1976, he co-founded Computer Associates International, which became one of the largest employers on Long Island, with 20,000 workers. Wang retired from his position as CEO in 2000. The company is now called CA Technologies.
In 2007, Wang faced scrutiny after his successor Sanjay Kumar, accused Wang of orchestrating accounting fraud at the company. According to the New York Times, CA Technologies ended up paying more than $500 million in fines. Wang denied allegations that he was involved with the fraud and was never charged with a crime.
On a more positive note, Charles Wang is remembered for his philanthropic efforts. He founded the non-profit organization called the Smile Train, which provides surgeries to children with cleft lip and palates.
The organization wrote on its website at Wang’s passing: “Charles was the driving force behind Smile Train and the reason why so many deserving children continue to receive the care they so desperately need. His unwavering passion, commitment, and dedication to children with clefts was unmatched. Our Smile Train Family will miss him beyond words, yet we take comfort in knowing his legacy will live on forever in the smiles of the faces of the children we help and in the hearts of everyone who was fortunate enough to know him.”
Wang had his own charity, the Charles B. Wang Foundation. He founded Project Hope, an organization in China which provides educational opportunities and scholarships to scholar-athletes. Wang also supported the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.