Tag: ownership problems

Francesco Aquilini

Owner’s divorce could cause Dodgers-like headaches for Canucks


The Los Angeles Dodgers franchise dealt with a massive, ugly headache thanks to ex-owner Frank McCourt’s massive, ugly divorce. It’s hard to imagine any NHL team facing that much owner drama, but one of the Vancouver Canucks’ owners could face something close to it with his pending split.

Cloudiness regarding the Canucks

There’s talk that Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini’s squabble with long-time wife Taliah might affect his stake with the team. The Vancouver Province passes along his denial of those rumors, however, as Aquilini even used the Gary Bettman-approved phrase “business as usual” when discussing the impact (or lack thereof) on the Canucks.

Aquilini’s company owns both the Canucks and Rogers Arena, but as The Globe & Mail’s David Ebner reports, Francesco’s exact stake isn’t clear. That marks at least one obvious difference between the Canucks’ case and the Dodgers’ debacle off the bat, as TEAM 1040 points out that Frank McCourt held the “title directly.”

Early conclusions

Confused yet? That’s OK, as it seems this story is in the early (aka “smoke screen”) stages.

It’s unclear if Francesco Aquilini is correct in saying that the Canucks aren’t in play in the divorce, but either way, this could be a distraction for the team – or at least fans and the media.

Then again, with all the chaos the franchise has endured – from riots to Roberto Luongo – this ordeal might just seem like a new flavor of weird.

The NHL is helping the Devils out financially

2012 NHL All-Star Game - NHL Fan Fair

While the Devils are succeeding on the ice, off of it things aren’t going quite as smoothly.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed during his All-Star Game press conference that the Devils’ split ownership between Jeff Vanderbeek and Ray Chambers is having some problems. Vanderbeek is happy owning the Devils while Chambers is looking for a way out.

“It’s no secret the current owners haven’t seen eye-to-eye,” Bettman said. When asked about the financial stability of the team that’s had rumors of the NHL giving them cash to keep things rolling along this year, Bettman added: “Fair to say the club is stable, but ownership isn’t getting along.”

While Bettman avoided answering about league assistance, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to The Canadian Press’ Chris Johnston that the league has advanced the Devils money to help meet ends while their ownership continues to squabble.

With the Devils having financial questions, the future of impending free agent and team captain Zach Parise is in doubt. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello would love to keep Parise in New Jersey, but with a potentially monster contract to be negotiated on this summer and things being unsettled financially, the Devils could wind up being forced to move him.

Dallas Stars’ lenders might appoint temporary president while team sale hangs in limbo

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Forgive my oversimplification/generalization, but you can break down the Dallas Stars team sale situation by two basic schools of thought.

On one side, you have the crowd who are mostly negative about the situation. They point to the difficult situations faced by the now-sold Tampa Bay Lightning and the suspended-in-muck Phoenix Coyotes and wonder if the lenders who bailed Tom Hicks out will ever find a satisfying price.

On the other side, there is a local example that might hearten some Stars devotees. The team must only look to Arlington, at their former Hicks-ownership-related cousins, the Texas Rangers. That team was once mired in a situation that seemed far more grim; they hadn’t made the playoffs since the days of Juan Gonzalez and things weren’t looking up this summer. What happened since then? The Rangers took Major League Baseball my storm, encouraged a bidding war between groups headed by Mark Cuban and Nolan Ryan and made it to the World Series after beating the Yankees, for goodness sakes.

Whichever viewpoint you hold, this news could be big in the short term: the group of lenders may need to appoint an interim president to help run the team … and hopefully increase interest in the not-too-shabby Stars. Here’s more from Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News.

The group of lenders who are serving as the owners of the Stars are seriously considering naming an interim president to help guide the team, according to a source close to the sale of the team, and a decision could be made by the end of the week.

The move could be seen as a sign that the lenders are content to run the team for the remainder of the 2010-11 season, but the source said it’s more a matter of doing what’s best for the Stars in the event a sale does not happen.


Several people close to the sale say that open dialogue continues every day but that neither side is close to finding a price that makes everyone happy.

That means the lenders could continue to run the team for the remainder of the season in hopes that either a strong run in the playoffs or a change in the economic environment could entice buyers to raise their bids. The Stars have been running on the monies collected in the summer through ticket sales, advertising and television revenue, but those monies could run out in December. The Stars have talked to the NHL about getting an advance on future money that is normally collected by teams after the season, but the lenders could have to be prepared to start covering potential losses as soon as December.

The best bit of information – for Stars fans and fans of competitive hockey in general – is that it doesn’t sound like the team will run a talent liquidation (if they remain competitive, at least). The article seems to stress that the lenders are hopeful that adding a president will help them maintain or possibly improve the on-ice product as that will spur profits and increase the perceived value of the franchise.

In other words, the Stars might not have to pull what would be the equivalent of the anti-Cliff Lee trade by shipping Brad Richards and his large (but now justified), expiring contract to another team.

At least, they won’t do that if they really want to win. Stay tuned, though, because the surprising Stars might just be (an admittedly economically healthier) 2010-11 version of the 2009-10 Phoenix Coyotes. We’ll keep you posted.

Are the Stars in a bad position with centerman Brad Richards?


It’s awfully early to go looking ahead towards the off-season at who is going to be an unrestricted free agent, but one of the players that figures to get a lot of attention then if he’s available is Stars forward Brad Richards. Richards is one of the best set-up men in the league, perpetually at the top of assist lists year in and year out and he’s in the final year of his deal with the Dallas Stars.

Ideally, the Stars would love to lock him up with an extension, but with the team’s ownership in flux with Tom Hicks looking to get out of owning the team, spending the kind of cash needed to keep Richards in town is a major hang-up to getting anything done as The Sun’s Eric Francis discusses.

While both sides would love to start hammering out a deal, Nieuwendyk’s hands are tied by his club’s ownership uncertainty brought on by Tom Hicks’ company’s default on US$525 million in bank loans backed by the Stars and half his rink earlier this year.

“We had some informal discussions and decided if you can’t get instructions from ownership you’re talking in a vacuum,” said Richards’ agent, Pat Morris. “So instead of getting the player or the team excited about anything, we’ll have to wait.”

Question is, how long will it take for new ownership to be solidified? It could be awhile.

“I’m not worried about it now because we’re four games in, we’re off to a good start (4-0) and Brad is a big part of that,” said Nieuwendyk of the future contract talks with the league’s current scoring leading.

“At some point, I’ll have to talk to the league because we’ll have to get down to business.”

Why the Stars would have to talk to the NHL is because in situations where ownership is hung up in the air, the NHL functions as a proxy to square away major money moves and re-signing Brad Richards would certainly qualify as such because it would be a long-term commitment to big money. Obviously the best solution to this is to hope the Stars get a new owner in place sooner rather than later, but if that doesn’t happen this season the Stars will be in the uncomfortable position of having to decide whether or not to trade Richards lest they risk losing him to free agency at the end of the season and getting nothing in return.

We’re a ways away from that even being a possibility, but it’s something the Stars do have to keep in mind as the season goes on. With how Richards’ season has already started, the offers that could come in for his services might be too juicy to pass up. With two goals and seven assists through four games and leading the Stars to a 4-0-0 record the demand across the league would be at a record high. The Stars just hope they don’t end up in the position of having to make a very difficult choice come spring.