People throw around words such as “rare” and “unique” like confetti these days, but I think it’s appropriate to say that sports lost one of its most irreplaceable figures today when Yankees owner George Steinbrenner died of a heart attack.
It got me thinking about just how rare “The Boss” is in sports, particularly compared to the mostly-working-in-the-shadows nature of NHL owners. For the most part, Gary Bettman more or less earns his enormous paychecks by being a figurehead for the owners as a whole.
Really, the NHL kissed the idea of having a truly swaggering, flamboyant owner goodbye when the league squashed the ownership dreams of Blackberry CEO Jim Balsillie (and also when outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban fell short of buying the Pittsburgh Penguins). Still, I racked my brain for a bit and came up with two owners who might have at least a touch of flair to them, though neither one is anywhere near the type of person who would be lampooned on a show like “Seinfeld.”
Ted Leonsis – Leonsis seems warm-and-cuddly toward his coaching staff and roster in every way that Steinbrenner was moody and occasionally irrational. Still, he makes himself known to the hockey public, particularly with his often-refreshingly-candid blog/Web site “Ted’s Take.” Again, there are some big differences between Leonsis and Steinbrenner, but neither lacked for passion.
Daryl Katz – This is more on feeling than anything else (although he did make some surprisingly sharp remarks about his team during the disastrous 2009-10 regular season), but Katz seems like he might end up being a bit of a “character.” He has the money and that look about him. We’ll see if he delivers on my gut feeling as the Edmonton Oilers try to find a new arena – and their way out of the NHL’s cellar.
Are there any current owners who fit a “Steinbrenner” profile in your eyes? Feel free to share some of your memories on owners – both active and from hockey’s rich history – who remind you of “The Boss.”