• The NHL Shift: News and notes, 4/18/2014

    Sources: Islanders draw new suitors as Barroway continues efforts

    Philadelphia attorney and hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway is no longer alone in his pursuit of the New York Islanders.

    According to a financial industry source, Islanders owner Charles Wang has received interest in his team from at least two other potential buyers.

    “The Islanders are a year away from moving to Brooklyn, and the lease there is good,” said the source. “Once Mr. Wang said publicly that he was listening to offers, it was inevitable that interest would pick up. The Islanders are now an attractive commodity.”

    Barroway continues to line up partners to help finance a deal with Wang. Negotiations are ongoing.

    As previously reported in The Shift, one scenario has Barroway starting out as a partner who holds between 30 percent and 49 percent ownership, with Wang retaining majority ownership for the 2014-15 season (the Islanders’ final year at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum) and for 2015-16 (the club’s first season at the Barclays Center).

    Barroway is said to be in good standing with the NHL after he negotiated to purchase the New Jersey Devils last summer. According to a source, Barroway went far enough in the process with former Devils owner Jeffrey Vanderbeek to have made an initial payment of $10 million, but ultimately, talks broke off after additional discovery was done regarding the purchase and ownership costs for the club — costs that would have included more than $30 million owed by the club to creditors.

    The Devils were purchased a month later by Josh Harris and David Blitzer. Nevertheless, Barroway made a strong impression on the NHL and the Devils.

    “He loves hockey and came across as a very likeable, sincere guy,” said a source who was involved in the Devils discussions. “From what I can tell, he wants to be an owner and just hire the best president, general manager, and sales and marketing executives that he can find. He wants to sit in the owner’s suite, enjoy the hockey, and let everyone do their jobs.”

    Barroway was vetted by the NHL during his pursuit of the Devils but was never formally approved by the league because the deal fell through. In any case, the league views each transaction on its own, so if Barroway were to complete a deal with Wang for the Islanders, he would have to go through the league’s vetting and approval process again.


    2013-14 playoff opener / season recap edition

    +53%: The increase in TV viewership for Wednesday night’s opening night of the playoffs compared to opening night last year. The three games across NBCSN and CNBC average 472,000 viewers.

    0-for-3: There were three new ownership groups in the league this season, and all three of their teams failed to qualify for the playoffs. For Phoenix (led by George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc), New Jersey (Josh Harris and David Blitzer) and Florida (Vincent Viola), there’s always next season.

    3: Gracious gestures on the final weekend of the regular season. The Vancouver Canucks came back onto the ice to shake the hand of Edmonton winger Ryan Smyth, who had just played his last game. The Los Angeles Kings had a brief ceremony to honor Teemu Selanne, a member of the rival Ducks who is retiring after the playoffs. And, after Selanne played his last regular-season game in Anaheim, he invited opposing Colorado Avalanche goaltender J.S. Giguere (a former Duck who is expected to retire after this season) to take a lap around the ice with him and salute the fans. Hockey can be a nasty sport, but moments like these reinforce the notion that it also can be one of the classiest.

    That’s the value of items the Ottawa Senators gave away in the stands and via social media on Fan Appreciation Night. Prizes included a Dodge truck worth $40,000, 1,500 gift cards from various club sponsors, concession stand food, and dinners at Chek Point restaurants — along with the jerseys off the Senators players’ backs when the game was over.

    21,758,902: The NHL’s total attendance this season, breaking the previous single-season high set in 2008-09. That total includes the combined 376,837 who attended the six outdoor games this season.

    22,201: The largest announced crowd for a regular-season game (not played in a stadium): Colorado at Chicago on Dec. 27.

    7,401: The smallest announced crowd: Nashville at Phoenix on Halloween.

    7: Number of teams with ongoing sellouts streaks of 100 or more regular-season and playoff games as the postseason began:
    Toronto Maple Leafs: 446
    Montreal Canadiens: 401
    Pittsburgh Penguins: 327
    Chicago Blackhawks: 267
    Boston Bruins: 206
    Los Angeles Kings: 108
    New York Rangers: 103


    Honoring some of the notable achievements of teams and executives during the 2013-14 season

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner: The Lightning played to 97 percent capacity this season and finished third in the Eastern Conference after failing to make the playoffs last year. His $5 million investment in a new scoreboard for the Tampa Bay Times Forum in 2012 continues to draw raves, he donates $50,000 to veterans’ causes on the day of every home game, and he personally participates in team promotions, like teaching a Hockey 101 class to new fans. You couldn’t ask for more from a small-market owner.

    Colorado Avalanche: “Why Not Us?” was the team’s marketing slogan this season, and it sure set the tone for a franchise turn-around. Team President Josh Kroenke appointed Avs legend Joe Sakic as EVP of hockey operations. Sakic hired goaltending great Patrick Roy as head coach, and the results were immediate. Colorado went from the NHL’s 29th-place team last season to a division-winner this year. Average attendance increased a league-best 5.5 percent, up to 16,296 fans per game, and likely will increase further next year. The buzz is back in Denver.

    Maple Leafs sponsors converted dasherboard ads to Chinese for a game last month.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    Toronto Maple Leafs:
    In their attempt to become a more global sports brand under the guide of Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of club owner Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the Leafs reached out to Chinese audiences recently. For a game last month that was televised on CCTV5 in China, 10 Maple Leafs sponsors (including MasterCard and Purolator) converted their dasherboard ads at Air Canada Centre to Chinese. According to the team, the ads reached 300,000 households that were watching the game in China.

    New Jersey Devils: A multiyear sponsorship with PartyPoker signed jointly in January with the NBA 76ers (also owned by Devils owners Harris and Blitzer) drew national media attention for being the first online gaming sponsorships for U.S. major league sports teams. But make no mistake: Since New Jersey is the only state with gaming regulations and a major league franchise (Nevada and Delaware being the others), this was a deal with the Devils. It also, according to a source, is valued around what other teams get for arena naming-rights deals.

    The Rangerstown Hockey House
    New York Rangers:
    The Rangers have taken a 9,500-square-foot building adjacent to Madison Square Garden that formerly housed a Borders book store and converted it into a fan zone and space for MSG Network’s pregame shows. Rangerstown Hockey House, which debuted before Game 1 of the Rangers’ series against Philadelphia on Thursday, features space for Q&A sessions with Rangers alumni, a Hall of Fame exhibit, an autograph signing station and an accuracy shooting contest.

    Buffalo Sabres fans: The Sabres were last in the league standings from the start of the season until the end, but should the team improve in a few years, you’d never be able to accuse their fans of being bandwagon jumpers. The Sabres finished near the top of the NHL rankings for local TV viewership of their games this season despite all the losses, and attendance at HSBC Arena averaged 18,580 per game — 97 percent of capacity.

    Liam McHugh, NBC Sports Group: It can’t be easy wrangling studio analysts as diverse in style and temperament as Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick, but McHugh does it with poise, intelligence and a sense of humor. McHugh seems destined for a bigger role beyond hockey at NBC.

    Bill Daly and John Collins, NHL: A rich Canadian media-rights deal with Sportsnet. A new single-season high for league attendance. Six sold-out stadium games, including more than 104,000 fans at Michigan Stadium for the Winter Classic. A strong Olympic tournament, with increased access in Sochi for NHL Network and NHL.com, along with the production of the “NHL Revealed” documentary. Commissioner Gary Bettman is ultimately in charge, but it was also a very good year for Daly, the deputy commissioner, and Collins, the league’s chief operating officer.

    Tags: On the Ground
  • TV Timeout: Trump Card

    ESPN Radio’s Mike Greenberg said of Donald Trump potentially owning the Bills: “Trump buying the Bills would be the most interesting thing that’s happened to them, probably since those Super Bowl teams, so I’m all in favor of it and I’d really like to it happen” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 4/16). ESPN's Tony Reali said, “Thirty years ago he owned the New Jersey Generals of the USFL and his plan to go head-to-head with the NFL went over about as well as the bubonic plague.” ESPN's Israel Gutierrez said, "You know he wants to one-up somebody like (Cowboys Owner) Jerry Jones. He would probably build an even bigger stadium in Buffalo and how fun would it be when it's about time for him to fire a coach"  ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/15).

    PLAY IT AGAIN: MLB Network’s Dan Plesac, on MLB instant replay: “For the managers it has been difficult. For the players it has been difficult. Change is always difficult. I think over time they will get this ironed out” (“MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 4/15). ESPN's J.A. Adande said it is "too soon to be upset about replay and to render a verdict. It's fine to criticize it, but you can't render a final verdict” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/15). 

    SHOOTING STARS: PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said of Tiger Woods not competing due to injury, "I'd much rather have Tiger playing, don't misunderstand me. But there is that benefit to creating stars and creating stars is our future" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 4/16). 

    HELPING HAND: UConn men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie, on the efforts by college athletes to form a union: "I just think they need a voice, wherever that voice is somebody needs to be talking in their behalf. The NCAA can use your likeness for a lifetime. We have to do something for our student-athletes. We have to change” ("CBS This Morning," CBS, 4/16). 

    EAT FRESH: ESPN's Dan Le Batard said U.S. Gold Medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps wants to renew his endorsement deal with Subway, and he "can't renew it from retirement. That's right, you've got to keep winning that gold if you want to keep getting those Subway gold cards" ("Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 4/15).

  • SBJ's inaugural 'Hockey Biz Podcast'

    As the NHL playoffs get ready to launch tonight, staff writers Christopher Botta and Alex Silverman discuss the latest hockey news in SBJ's inaugural "Hockey Biz Podcast." Among the topics:

    The Canucks and Maple Leafs hiring former players in executive roles, why they might have made the moves and what PR value can be gained from them.

    The latest on the potential sale of the New York Islanders and how their move to Brooklyn makes the team a much more viable property.

    The NHL's average per-game attendance being down from last season's 48-game slate, why that would be the case and what it means.

    And whether the Columbus Blue Jackets trying to ensure that only Ohio residents can buy home playoff tickets is a good idea and will be effective.

    Tags: Hockey, NHL, SBJSBD Podcast
  • FishBait's Jones Says Fans Often Forgotten In Sports Ecosystem

    Rick Jones, founder and CEO FishBait Marketing, an agency with a sharp focus on college athletics, stopped by the SportsBusiness Journal/Daily offices in Charlotte on Tuesday to share his thoughts on present-day sports marketing and some of the issues facing college athletics.

    Rick Jones formed FishBait Marketing in 2003.
    Among his discussion points, Jones said fans have been left behind in the triangular relationship between consumers, sponsors and sports properties. He cited rising ticket prices and the ability of TV to control game times as being developments that have been detrimental to fans.

    “The property depends on the fan for television revenue, for ticketing revenues, for licensing revenues — and the sponsor depends on the fan to buy their products,” Jones said. “I say all boats rise with the tide. Don’t worry about how big your boat is. Create a tide, and I think that’s what properties and sponsors have to collectively do: constantly talk about ‘How do we enhance fans?’ And if we do that, we’re going to grow the ecosystem.”

    Jones, an Atlanta native, began his career as a high school and college basketball coach before earning his master’s degree in sports administration and entering the world of sports business. In the time since, he has started several sports marketing groups, including The Strategic Group, CMA and now FishBait.

    He works with the American Football Coaches Association and the National Association of Basketball Coaches, as well as a range of other entities that include the NCAA, Turner Sports and ESPN.

    Jones said he prefers a glass-half-full mentality when it comes to the future of college sports. While he notes that the consolidation of rights holders can hurt local and alumni business deals, he also emphasizes positive developments in the space, such as the games each year getting a new crop of fans — a freshman class — and college sports having significant female fan support.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • TV Timeout: You Make The Call

    MLB Network’s Chris Rose, on the future of instant replay: “One year from today, I guarantee you how the system is implemented, what we’re looking for, what’s legal and what’s not will be different, and that’s okay. It’s so hard for us to wait and be patient with change” (“Intentional Talk,” MLB Network, 4/14). MLB.com’s Terence Moore said, “This is nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be. … Here’s the thing: This is still the second best system baseball could use. The best system, just leave it alone” (“OTL,” ESPN, 4/14).

    ARMOUR ALL:  CNBC's Scott Wapner said golfer Jordan Spieth is "right in the wheelhouse of the target demo that you're trying to reach if you're an Under Armour” ("Fast Money Halftime Report," CNBC, 4/14).

    CRYSTAL BALL: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, on a lawsuit alleging the league promoted violence, "The fact is a couple of plaintiffs' law firms seem to have cobbled together some lawsuits copying what went on in the NFL. We knew it was coming” ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 4/15).

    PITCH MAN: TNT's Shaquille O'Neal said of his philosophy of investments versus endorsements, "I'll do investments, endorsements and partnerships. A lot of times, if I really, really believe in a company I'll say, 'Okay, I'll do an endorsement, but you don't have to be pay me, I want to be a partner in your company. Let me grow with you’” ("Closing Bell," CNBC, 4/14).

    CHA-CHING: Giants P Steve Weatherford said of Donald Trump wanting to own the Bills: “Does he want to win games? Absolutely. But he's really in it to make money and create a powerful business venture" ("NFL AM," NFL Network, 4/15).

  • TV Timeout: Buffalo Soldier

    ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said, “There would be nothing worse than moving the Bills out of western New York. That would be horrible. … For the people there, the significance of that team to that area, I know it’s not exactly the same thing, but if you move the Packers out of Green Bay, part of the flavor of the NFL is being in these cities” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 4/14).

    MOTOWN MOTOR: NBA TV's Brent Barry said of Joe Dumars taking an advisory role with the franchise, "Even though he's taking this new role, they're smart enough to know you just don’t let good people go" ("NBA Gametime," NBA TV, 4/13).

    CHERRY PICKING: The CBC's Don Cherry said the Maple Leafs naming Brendan Shanahan team President was a "great move" because MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke "knows soccer, he knows basketball, but he's only a fan of hockey” ("HNIC," NHL Network, 4/12).

  • SBJ Podcast: David Morehouse of the Penguins

    NHL writer Christopher Botta and executive editor Abraham Madkour discuss Pittsburgh Penguins President and CEO David Morehouse's unique political background and his work with the Penguins, which is featured on the front page of this week's SportsBusiness Journal.

    Tags: NHL, Pittsburgh Penguins, SBJSBD Podcast
  • Big Ten opening Manhattan office June 1

    The Big Ten announced yesterday that it will open a New York office at 900 Third Ave. in Manhattan. The intent, the conference said, is to provide staff with a space to work on branding, championships, communications and compliance initiatives.

    The office, which will be 4,400 square feet, will open by June 1. Three full-time staffers will work out of the office, which also will have meeting space for the conference and its school members whenever they’re in New York.

    Kerry Kenny from the Big Ten said existing employees will be moved from the Big Ten’s headquarters in Rosemont, Ill., to New York, but the conference is not disclosing their names just yet. Future branding initiatives for the conference likely will originate out of the New York office, and with Rutgers and Maryland set to officially join the Big Ten on July 1, there is expected to be a flurry of marketing activity associated with that. Kenny said any plans along those lines are still in the works.

    Tags: On the Ground, Colleges
  • Back to ballparks for more concessions creations

    One last helping of new ballpark food, from three MLB concessionaires.

    Target Field (Twins)
    The ballpark, entering its fifth season of operation, is known as a foodie hotspot strong on local brands. Andrew Zimmern of “Bizarre Foods” television fame jumped on the bandwagon last year by serving a goat-and-lamb butter burger.

    Sportservice's Porketta Sluggers at Target Field
    Izzy’s ice cream ($7), Valentini’s Italian burger ($10, includes fries) and the Porketta Slugger meat pastry ($8) are among the new additions to Sportservice’s portfolio in Minneapolis.

    Valentini’s Supper Club is an 80-year restaurant based in Chisholm, Minn., about 200 miles north of the Twin Cities. It has had a presence at Target Field since 2012, when it introduced a cheese-stuffed meatball at the park. This year, Valentini’s is downsizing the dish to mini-meatballs to make it easier for fans to eat, Sportservice officials said.

    Elsewhere at Target Field, Hrbek’s, a stadium bar named after former Twins slugger Kent Hrbek, offers a Bloody Mary “garnished” with a cheeseburger for $18. It’s officially known as the Bigger, Better Burger Bloody Mary.

    Oriole Park at Camden Yards
    The new Chesapeake Crab Roll ($16) is Sportservice’s spin on the New England crab roll. Baltimore’s version is chilled crab salad served on a bed of lettuce in a French bread roll.

    Angel Stadium of Anaheim
    Legends, co-owned by the New York Yankees, takes over all aspects of foodservice this season for the Los Angeles Angels.

    Legends developed its own line of barbecue called Smoke Ring BBQ. The vendor moved a large smoker that had been operating in right field to Gate 1 at field level, one of the stadium’s busiest entrances. The new stand sells smoked kielbasa ($9.75), smoked BBQ brisket and half-chicken (both $12) and St. Louis-style pork ribs ($16).

    At The Big Cheese, Legends offers comfort foods such as grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. The selections are traditional grilled cheese ($7.50) and speciality grilled cheese with arugula and thick cut bacon ($10) and short rib ($12). The soup is $5.

    At the Nacho Nachos stand, the Nacho Daddy, a souvenir batting helmet fully loaded to feed several fans, costs $16.50. The Nacho Baby ($6) and Nacho Mama ($9.25) are available for smaller appetites.

    O.co Coliseum (Oakland Athletics)
    This year, Ovations signed its first MLB account, revamping the menus and developing new concession concepts at the home of the A's.

    The White Elephant Bar & Grille, a name tied to the team’s unofficial mascot, features fish tacos ($15), Dungeness crab cakes ($16) and wild mushroom mac and cheese ($11).

    The Burrito District has hand-rolled burritos ($10), street tacos (three for $8) and loaded nachos ($8).

    In addition, the Gastropub sells brick-oven pizzas for $13 to $16 and large craft beers for $11, poured in a 22-ounce souvenir cup.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • The NHL Shift: Numbers and notes, 4/11/2014

    A look at the past week in the NHL:

    News from New York, Part I: Rangers opening ‘Hockey House’ for playoffs

    The New York Rangers are planning to host an indoor fan festival during the Stanley Cup playoffs every day the team plays, whether at Madison Square Garden or on the road.

    The Rangerstown Hockey House will be a 9,500-square-foot building adjacent to MSG that was the former site of a Borders books and music store. When the Rangers are at home in the playoffs, the Hockey House will be open from 2 p.m. that day until 30 minutes before opening faceoff. When the team plays on the road, it will open at 5 p.m. and close at the end of the game.

    Road games will be shown at the Hockey House, which is sponsored by Chase and is open to all fans.

    Scheduled activities include the Blueshirts Live stage for Q&A sessions with Rangers alumni (sponsored by Time Warner Cable); an exhibit of Hockey Hall of Fame artifacts and Rangers memorabilia; autograph signings (sponsored by Celebrity Cruises); and a shooting accuracy contest (sponsored by Delta Airlines). MSG Network will broadcast its pregame shows live from the facility.

    “The house is an extension of ‘Welcome to Rangerstown,’” said Michael Guth, MSG Sports executive vice president, marketing, referring to the team’s marketing campaign this season. “The idea has been to make the Rangers feel a part of your home. Now, we’re welcoming the fans into ours, whether they have tickets to the game or not.”

    The “Welcome to Rangerstown” campaign was created by MSG Sports with the New York-based marketing agency NSG/SWAT.

    “The campaign has really registered with what we call ‘true-blue’ Rangers fans and, we believe, with new fans,” Guth said. “The goal is to build our base of fans, and there’s no better time to do that than during the excitement of the playoffs.”

    News from New York, Part II: Islanders sale talks continue

    Negotiations continue in the potential sale of the New York Islanders from owner Charles Wang to Andrew Barroway. According to a person who was invited to join Barroway’s ownership group as a minority investor, the total valuation of the Islanders has been outlined as being $370 million — broken down as $100 million in cash/equity, $125 million in senior notes, $85 million in seller paper, and $60 million in preferred equity.

    A league source said Wang continues to discuss a sale with Barroway only, with no other serious bids having been formally taken to Wang yet.

    Howard Dolgon, a Long Island resident who owns the AHL Syracuse Crunch, is interested, according to a separate source, but he has yet to line up partners and make a bid.

    From 1992 to 2008, Barroway was a partner in the law firm Schiffren Barroway, based in Radnor, Pa. His focus was on securities fraud claims brought against public companies. One of those claims, in 1998, was against Computer Associates, a company co-founded by Wang. Barroway was the lead plaintiff in a class-action suit that was settled in 2003.

    By the Numbers

    4 days: The length of the exclusive window for Ohio residents to purchase tickets to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ first two home games of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The club is trying to ensure that tickets, which went on sale this morning, go to supporters of the Blue Jackets — not to fans of potential first-round opponents, such as the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nationwide Arena is only a three-hour drive from Pittsburgh.

    $25: The cost of one seat in the upper-level end zones for the first-round home games of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the least-expensive face-value price that Shift found in a search for playoff tickets. The next-cheapest seat located: $40 in the upper tier for Minnesota Wild games.

    8.35: The rating in Pittsburgh for this week’s NBCSN “Wednesday Night Rivalry” telecast of Penguins/Red Wings, making the net the top-rated cable network in the Pittsburgh market during the game’s time period that night. Nationally, the game drew 717,000 viewers, the third-highest mark this season for NBCSN’s Wednesday franchise.

    1984: The year of the Olympic gold medal victory in men’s figuring skating for Scott Hamilton, who is joining with the Nashville Predators to open a skating academy bearing in his name in August. Hamilton resides in Franklin, Tenn., and has been a Predators season-ticket holder for the last eight years. According to the team, he will be an “active principal” in the academy, hiring coaches and developing curriculum.

    0: The amount of team front-office experience of Trevor Linden and Brendan Shanahan, who were hired for major roles with NHL franchises this week. Neither is without credentials, however. Linden, named president of hockey operations for the Vancouver Canucks, is a former president of the NHL Players’ Association and former Canucks captain who played 16 seasons for the franchise. Shanahan, the new president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been a vice president in the NHL’s hockey operations department since 2009 and was a highly-respected, hall of fame player for 21 seasons on league ice.


    To Steve Griggs — whose promotion to president of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Times Forum did not make headlines like the Linden and Shanahan hires did but was good news for a long-time sports executive. Before joining the Lightning in 2010, Griggs spent three years with the Orlando Magic, eight years with the Minnesota Wild, and five years with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment — all in leadership positions in sales and marketing.

    Looking Ahead
    Tuesday: Before the start of the playoffs on Wednesday, the most meaningful night of April for this season’s worst teams is Tuesday — when the NHL Draft Lottery is conducted in Toronto.

    Tags: On The Ground
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