Activist Owners Good For Sports

You can go both ways on Jim Balsillie’s pursuit to own the Coyotes – he doesn’t deserve to own a team because of his brash antics and the fact the other owners don’t necessarily want him, or that he would be good for the league, infuse money, and good business sense. The more this carries on, the more I lean toward the latter. His motive seems to be that he really wants to own an NHL franchise – not build an arena, or make a business play. He is passionate about hockey, and that’s a good thing.

Owners with deep pockets and a passion for the sport increase the value of the entire league, and usually field successful teams, financially and competitively. People may mock what Stephen Ross is doing in Miami, from the short-term naming rights deal to the groundswell of celebrity figurehead owners, but the bottom line is he’s trying, he’s active, and he’s doing it for the fans. He came into Miami, hired the best people around to run the team, now he’s bringing in the best people available to create a fan experience and connect the team with the community. Ross is building an all-encompassing entertainment product that will generate sustainable revenue, while giving his football people the resources they need to make the team an annual playoff contender. If you’re a fan, what else can you ask for. Plus, his actions have generated positive brand awareness nationally, and he has successfully extended the Dolphins brand into new target markets with the ownership and partnerships.

Mark Cuban turned a moribund Dallas franchise, and like it or not, helped catapult the NBA from its post-strike, post-Jordan malaise. He managed his team in first-class, created an environment that players wanted to play in and fans wanted to be part of. His antics certainly crossed the line at times, but his antics have certainly had a positive impact on the sport. Look at George Steinbrenner in NY and the Celtics ownership team. Owners that come from successful business backgrounds that buy teams because they have a passion for sports and plan to stay involved with managing the business of the team usually succeed, which benefits everyone around them.

Back to Balsillie, the NHL needs his deep pockets in the league. One less team to worry about making payroll, or to worry about surviving, is a good thing for a league struggling to find stable ground. One more owner that will pour money into marketing the sport, who will focus on putting a good team on the ice, and creating a positive fan experience, will benefit all the other owners and the league as a whole. His style may rub people the wrong way, and rightfully so as he has mishandled many issues. However, in the end, if they embrace him as an owner, Balsillie may eventually yield a payoff for the entire league, if his comparables in other sports are any indication. He certainly has the pedigree with his success at RIM.

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3 Responses

  1. As good as that would be, the demand that the team moves to Hamilton would be tough. I’m a for a return to Canada, so why not return the Jets to Winnipeg? They have a fairly new arena. Hamilton is too close to Toronto, and could tremendously hurt the Raptors, Blue Jays and even the Buffalo Bills.

  2. Plus the Jets can renew their West Side Story rivalry with the Sharks!

  3. I think market conditions would force the move almost immediately – in this case, Hamilton or WInnipeg would do far better than Arizona.

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