Around Hollywood, people know Oren Koules as the guy behind the Saw movie franchise and a producer for Two and a Half Men. Around hockey circles however, people know him as the guy who joined forces with co-owner Len Barrie to make the Tampa Bay Lightning the laughing stock of the league over the last few years. Ownership disagreements, financial problems, and a sale to Jeffrey Vinik later and Koules is out of the game of hockey.
Well, out of hockey as an owner.
The former Lightning owner has accompanied his son Miles Koules to this year’s Research and Development Camp in Ontario to show support. At 5’10,” the younger Koules managed 3 goals and 4 assists in 26 games for the U.S. National Development Team. Even though Miles is from Los Angeles, he went to the legendary Shattuck St. Mary’s to hone his craft before making the trek to Ann Arbor and Team USA. He’s committed to play next season with the University of North Dakota and the Fighting Sioux. He was good enough to earn a spot on International Scouting Services’ Top 50 players eligible for the 2012 Entry Draft.
Being around an NHL team at such an early age helped Miles as he looked towards taking the next step in his hockey career. By all accounts, he’s right on track to maximize his talent and possibly earn a spot in the NHL one day. From scout Dan Sallows:
“The experience was awesome to be able to see how professionals go about their business at such a young age. It mainly helped my game to be able to learn things on and off the ice on the ways to make it because they have already done so.”
It wasn’t Miles play on the ice that grabbed headlines this afternoon. While talking to a few reporters, Oren admitted that he had spoken to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman regarding a possible return to ownership. He went on to talk to Greg Wyshynski at Yahoo! Sports about his time with the Lightning and even hinted why his next ownership venture would be more successful than his last:
“I had two problems. I had a partner that went bananas and the second problem is that the economy kicked us in the balls,” he said. “We went from 38 million in tickets to 17 million.”
As for his time with Barrie: “I signed documents to say I wouldn’t talk about it.”
Clearly the economy played a huge role in the downturn in ticket sales. At the same time, it probably didn’t help that the Lightning were the worst team in the Eastern Conference over a three year stretch from 2007-2010. When people have less money to spend, they’re less likely to spend their hard earned cash to head out to the rink—especially when the team is awful. Between an Eastern Conference Finals appearance and a renovated building in Tampa, new owner Jeffrey Vinik won’t have the same attendance problems next season that plagued the previous regime.
A quick look around the league shows that Bettman would be open to an infusion of new money. The Dallas Stars look like they should be in the final stages of their sale, but both the St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes could use a legitimate ownership group to step up to the plate and kick down some serious money. Len Barrie and Koules originally bought the Lightning for a reported $200 million; only to sell the team to Vinik for $170 million.
Depending on the deal he can work out with the Glendale City Council, he could probably get a team in Arizona for a relative bargain.