Blackhawks Chair Rocky Wirtz said that despite making a "second Stanley Cup Final appearance in four seasons and obliterating television ratings records," the team will need "at least two more years before turning a profit," according to Danny Ecker of CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS. Wirtz characterized this season's "accomplishments on the ice and at the ticket gate as 'setting us up to be in a much better place next year.'” Ecker notes Crain's estimates the Blackhawks annually spend $10-20M "more than they take in" despite "higher ticket and sponsorship revenues this season." This season's "surge to the Stanley Cup Final hasn't made up for missed revenue from a lockout-shortened regular season, when the team continued to pay more than 100 non-player employees, but it has mitigated the pain." Ticket sales from 12 home playoff games have "poured roughly $15 million into the team's coffers." The team's losses are "covered easily" by Wirtz' other "highly successful interests, including Wirtz Beverage Co." The team generates $20-25M annually from "sponsorships, television rights fees, including those from Comcast SportsNet Chicago (of which Mr. Wirtz is a part owner) and assorted income such as merchandise sales." But that "doesn't cover a third" of the $68M cost of player salaries. The Blackhawks spend nearly $20M on "staff, coaches and payments to subsidize the league's 10 lowest revenue-generating franchises as required" under the NHL's new CBA, creating the "reliance on ticket revenue." With attendance over capacity, the team's "take from tickets comes to less than $50 million based on the average price." Before the Stanley Cup playoffs began, the team said that it would "raise prices on next year's season tickets, which account for about 75 percent of all tickets sold, by an average of 16 percent, translating to an overall average ticket price of more than $70" (CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS, 6/17 issue).
MY KIND OF TOWN: In Chicago, Fred Mitchell wrote the "whole city is abuzz, and not just the everyday sports fans of what once was considered sort of a niche sport." Players, coaches and management from the other teams in Chicago have "taken serious notice of the Hawks' success on the ice and the way they handle their business from top to bottom." Mitchell: "I have spent a lot of time around the Cubs, Sox and Bears the last few months and praise of the Blackhawks as an effective organization is widespread" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/15).
The Nuggets yesterday named Pelicans Assistant GM Tim Connelly VP/Basketball Operations, replacing Masai Ujiri, according to Benjamin Hochman of the DENVER POST. Nuggets President Josh Kroenke, after former VP/Basketball Operations Pete D'Alessandro was hired by the Kings as their new GM, "quickly regrouped and locked in on Connelly." Connelly is "known for his scouting abilities, nationally and internationally, and he has a vast basketball background." He joined the Pelicans in '10 after working as Wizards Dir of Player Personnel. Pelicans GM Dell Demps said of Connelly, "He always sees the bright side. Everybody's really going to look forward to working with Tim. ... Tim is friends with everybody. He's one of those guys who everybody knows and everybody likes." Hochman writes, "As for name recognition, perhaps in a decade fans will look back at the Connellys as the Mannings of NBA execs." His brother Pat is the new Assistant GM with the Suns. Two other brothers also have "worked in coaching and scouting in some NBA capacity" (DENVER POST, 6/18).
THE NEXT GENERATION: In Baton Rouge, Darrell Williams in a special writes Connelly is considered "adept at handling the salary cap and player negotiations, but he is known foremost as an outstanding scout, particularly of international players, and has a wealth of contacts in European basketball" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 6/18). YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski wrote Connelly is "part of a younger generation of league executives moving into top management positions and has been compared favorably" to Magic GM Rob Hennigan and Suns GM Ryan McDonough as "part of the league's next crop of bright young minds" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/17).
NEW IN TOWN: In Sacramento, Jason Jones noted D'Alessandro yesterday was introduced as Kings GM "on his 45th birthday." Kings Managing Partner Vivek Ranadive "initially viewed D'Alessandro as a 'long shot' for the job but was captivated by D'Alessandro's intelligence and vision." D'Alessandro "falls in line with many of today's" new GMs as his "statistical analysis is a strength, and he has worked for a sports agency." D'Alessandro also is a lawyer. Ranadive said, "The 21st-century GM has to understand the complexities of (salary) capology, the development in technology, the use of analytics. And if a good chess player thinks two moves ahead, in Pete we have a guy who can think four moves ahead." D'Alessandro said that he "leans toward a smaller staff with diverse backgrounds" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 6/18). Also in Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes D'Alessandro is "storming into Sacramento to change the climate and start scribbling on the blank slate." He is "young and dynamic and energetic" as well as "bright and personable and eclectic." Ranadive before scheduling the interviews "asked each of the candidates to analyze the Kings' roster and, among other things, provide short- and long-term plans and examples of linear and non-linear thinking." He wanted "names, dates, times, places." His "vetting process required everything but an IQ test" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 6/18).
The Browns canceled next month’s “Fan Kickoff Concert” at FirstEnergy Stadium due to weak ticket sales for a show headlined by Bon Jovi, according to industry sources. The Browns pulled the plug on the event at the request of Jon Bon Jovi, the band’s front man. “JBJ isn’t going to play in front of a half-empty stadium,” one source said. “It wasn’t a good situation for him.” The Browns announced the concert three weeks ago. Tickets went on sale June 3 and were priced as low as $9.50. The average ticket price was $70. The event was to include a two-hour fan festival before the concert. Michael Stanley and the Resonators, a local band, had been booked as the opening act (Don Muret, Staff Writer). Browns VP/Media Relations Neal Gulkis said that the event was to have included the Fan Fest and a "huge pep rally between the performances” of the two bands. Gulkis added that the cancelation "won't sour the Browns on the possibility of future concerts and other events" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 6/18).
In Calgary, Eric Francis reports the Flames yesterday confirmed that they are "looking to expand their hockey operations department," and NHL VP/Player Safety & Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan is "one of the possible hires the club has talked to." However, team President & CEO Ken King "insists any such move will be made entirely with an eye on bolstering the club’s front-office braintrust and will not come at a cost of either his or [GM] Jay Feaster’s job or responsibilities." Francis writes Flames fans "surprised by the news should find it a pleasant one as bolstering the front office is yet another sign the owners are committed to turning the club's fortunes around" (CALGARY SUN, 6/18).
MESSAGE RECEIVED: In Toronto, Doug Smith writes Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Tim Leiweke has fired Raptors Player Development Dir Alvin Williams in "a terribly short-sighted move that will rankle as many people as anything he does." Leiweke has "jettisoned one of the great guys ever associated with the franchise and a man who wanted nothing more than to spend his entire career with the organization in some way, shape or form." Williams, who had "spent last season scouting for the team" based out of Philadelphia, "loved the organization and the city." Smith writes "as messages go," the Raptors "just sent a crappy one." Smith: "And people will notice" (TORONTOSTAR.com, 6/17).
APOCALYPSE NOW? In N.Y., Mike Puma reports NBC's Bob Costas yesterday called Mets VP/Media Relations Jay Horwitz "to say he meant no harm" by comments during the net's U.S. Open coverage in which he "lambasted the Mets for celebrating [CF] Kirk Nieuwenhuis' game-ending homer against the Cubs" on Sunday. Costas said of the celebration, "Another indication of the ongoing decline of Western civilization" (N.Y. POST, 6/18).