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SBD/April 9, 2014/FranchisesPrint All
The Canucks today named Trevor Linden President of Hockey Operations, where he will oversee coaching and scouting staffs, player procurement and development, and minor league affiliations and operations (Canucks). The move comes one day after President & GM Mike Gillis "was fired, and two days after the club was mathematically eliminated from playoff contention" (THEPROVINCE.com, 4/9). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell noted Linden was "very involved with the business side of the game as a player," but has "not been involved in any managerial capacity with the Canucks since he retired" following the '07-08 season. The move to hire Linden comes after a source indicated that former Hockey Canada President & CEO Bob Nicholson had been in negotiations with Canucks Owner Francisco Aquilini to fill the vacancy created by Gillis' departure (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 4/8).
END OF A DOWNWARD SPIRAL: In Vancouver, Elliott Pap notes Gillis held the President & GM position "for almost six years and the team enjoyed tremendous success under his leadership." However, the Canucks "fell on hard times this season, especially during the second half, and were officially eliminated from the playoffs Monday" (VANCOUVER SUN, 4/9). The AP noted there were indications last week that Gillis and coach John Tortorella "weren't communicating." Gillis also had been "roundly criticized for his poor draft record, questionable free-agent signings and trades, and the handling of the Roberto Luongo saga" (AP, 4/8). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Adam Proteau wrote under the header, "Gillis' Downfall As Canucks GM Was Loving His Players Too Much" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 4/8). However, in Vancouver, Tony Gallagher notes under Gillis' tenure, the Canucks "went from No. 8 in NHL revenue to No. 2, something the owners actually notice, and the value of the team went from somewhere around" C$280M to close to C$800M. There likely will be "no shortage of opportunities and offers coming Gillis’s way if he wants to get back into hockey at some point, but it’s likely he will take a good while to decompress and take stock of what happened here" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 4/9).
REPAIRING A TARNISHED BRAND: In Vancouver, Iain MacIntyre writes the Aquilinis, for the first time since they bought into the Canucks in '04, "face a crisis of consumer confidence when it comes to their product." The Canucks brand "has been badly tarnished" since making it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in '11, and the team should hire Linden to begin "restoring" the brand. With the team's season-ticket renewals "going poorly and chants Monday night at Rogers Arena of 'Fire Gillis! Fire Gillis! Fire Gillis!' echoing among the thousands of empty seats at the end of another desultory loss" to the Ducks, the "most immediate benefit of firing Gillis is that it is popular." Hiring Linden, at least in the short term, "would generate a windfall of goodwill for the franchise" (VANCOUVER SUN, 4/9). Also in Vancouver, Ed Willes writes the Aquilinis now face "winning back the confidence of the faithful." Francesco Aquilini "denies that he's been involved in the decision-making process." But whoever was "making the calls, ownership still presided over an organization that made a series of terrible miscalculations and errors in personnel assessment." The Canucks' on-ice issues "have been well documented." But it is the "off-ice problems, specifically the damage to the previously bulletproof brand, that is the larger story, and that story is nowhere near complete" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 4/9). ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun wrote the decision to get rid of Gillis is viewed "mostly as a business decision by the Aquilini family, needing to hand Canucks fans a scalp to stop the downward plunge of the Canucks brand." Hiring Linden would "be a smart PR move at the very least, helping to heal what appears to be a fractured marketplace that's become disillusioned with the franchise." There needs to "be trust again between the fans and their team." Right now, there "isn't, as underlined by all those empty seats at Rogers Arena on Monday night" (ESPN.com, 4/8).
TOO MUCH MEDDLING? SPORTSNET's Mark Spector wrote the Canucks' "true problem" is "meddling ownership that at some point likely told Gillis he had autonomy to make hockey decisions, then changed its mind when it mattered most." Spector: "Will the Aquilinis stay married to their wrong-headed hiring of [coach John] Tortorella and hire Jay Feaster, perhaps the only prospective GM in the entire hockey world who would keep Tortorella as coach of the Canucks? Talk about the very definition of a compounded mistake." If Feaster "gets the Canucks GM job, this team is in trouble," because that "means the Aquilinis think they are hockey smart, and the Canucks will lose for a long, long time if ownership is going to make the important, hockey-related decisions" (SPORTSNET.ca, 4/8). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote the Canucks are the Aquilinis' team and "they can do whatever the hell they want with it." Francesco Aquilini in a statement said "new voice is needed." Wyshynski: "We imagine he means that of a ventriloquist's dummy who will parrot what the owners say and never go on the radio for line-in-the-sand interviews about how he knows better than they do. Because it's their toys, you see" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/8).
The Suns entering play tonight occupying the 8th spot in the Western Conference with a 46-31 record after winning just 25 games last year, and Suns President Jason Rowley said that the turnaround is "translating into improved season ticket renewals and sales, as well as a bump in suite and court-side ticket sales," according to Mike Sunnucks of the PHOENIX BUSINESS JOURNAL. Rowley said that the Suns currently have a 91% season-ticket renewal rate, up from 71% last season. He added that floor seats and smaller theater boxes at US Airways Center also are "posting better sales for both this season and next." Sunnucks reported the Suns' attendance "is up a little more than 400 fans per game" this season, but despite the improvement, they rank 24th in the NBA in that category. Meanwhile, Fox Sports Arizona Dir of Communications & Marketing Brett Hansen said that the team's TV ratings are up 84% compared with last season, "with an average of close to 39,700 households watching games this season." Phoenix-based Harkey Advertising CEO Matt Owens said that most of the Suns' marketing and "bottom-line rebound is due to the team’s success on the court and the local market’s bandwagon fan bases" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 4/8).
Warriors co-Owner Joe Lacob recently reached out to gauge whether A's co-Owner John Fisher might want to sell the team "at some point soon," but Fisher gave "no indication that he's looking to sell," according to sources cited by Tim Kawakami of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. Sources said that MLB has "monitored this situation and was aware of Lacob's interest." But with Fisher turning down Lacob, sources said that his interest in the team is "very much on the back-burner." Kawakami reports there is "some sense that the A's stadium frustrations will probably lead Fisher to at least explore the possibility of selling the team, which means there are potential buyers jockeying in the background in case Fisher suddenly changes his mind." The "point is many potential owner-types believe the A's could be available soon and that they are an under-valued asset given their profitability, baseball's booming economy, and the possibility of a giant revenue take-off if a new stadium can be built." Kawakami notes the A's selling price right now "starts at $500-plus million and could go much higher than that" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 4/9).
The Heat and the NBA D-League Sioux Falls Skyforce have "forged one of the more unusual and innovative partnerships in professional sports," according to Scott Cacciola of the N.Y. TIMES. The Heat have "allocated significant resources" to the Skyforce in an attempt to "replicate their philosophies on a D-League scale." The Skyforce, a franchise that has "functioned without interruption since 1989, is one of minor league basketball’s most stable organizations." However, this is the "first season that Heat executives are in full control of the Skyforce’s basketball operations." First-year Skyforce coach Pat Delany said that the team's "daily activities were imbued with 'Heat culture.'" Heat President Pat Riley: "It’s seamless. I think it’s becoming a necessity that every team has a minor league franchise that they manage themselves." Cacciola notes while the Skyforce "run the business side of the franchise, managing everything from ticket sales to in-game entertainment, the Heat hire the coaches, cover the travel costs and acquire the talent." No detail "is too small," as the Heat at the start of the season "sent the Skyforce an iPod full of music for morning shoot-arounds so that D-League prospects ... could listen to the same songs as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade." The team also "changed its colors from teal, black and silver to red and black" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/9).
The Cubs currently have an "intriguing battle ... taking place out of the public eye" in which they are trying to promote their new mascot, Clark the Cub, while denying affiliation with an unofficial mascot, Billy Cub, according to Paul Sullivan of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The Billy Cub mascot, which "long has been a thorn in their paws," is played by one of three men who walk around Wrigley Field and Wrigleyville on game days. One of them, Patrick Weier, "made a splash Saturday" when a video went viral showing him "punching a man who removed his head" at a Wrigleyville bar. The video "forced the Cubs to deny they had any affiliation with Billy." The Billy Cub mascot "is an albatross" to the Cubs, who have "spent thousands to create and market their first-ever mascot." Cubs VP/Communications & Community Affairs Julian Green last night said of Billy Cub, "He's not and has never been affiliated with the Cubs. ... Our mascot does not go into bars." Sullivan notes the Cubs last July reportedly "offered to buy ... out" Weier's brother, John Paul, for $15,000, "meaning all he had to do was stop walking around the park in a bear costume." However, he "declined, and the Cubs sent him a cease and desist letter" from MLB. Green: "Whether you like or dislike our mascot, people are fully aware we have an official mascot and it's geared toward kids and families, and the reception has been positive" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/9).
DODGING THE ISSUE? In L.A., Steve Dilbeck wrote during last weekend's games against the Giants, there was an "oversized, oh-so-cute person in a Dodgers uniform with a giant bobblehead who looks amazingly like a mascot" seen around Dodger Stadium. However, Dodgers Exec VP & CMO Lon Rosen said, "It's not a mascot. It's a unique performance character." Dilbeck noted the "non-mascot mascot ... mostly walked around waving and posing with fans for pictures." The Dodgers, Yankees and Angels are the only MLB teams without a mascot after the Cubs "fell victim in the off-season" (LATIMES.com, 4/8).