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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.
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, 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.

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