One of the week’s more interesting NHL rumors is the league has considered seizure of the New Jersey Devils due to the team’s massive debt, and and the apparent inability of current owner Jeff Vanderbeek to meet the financial obligations associated with it.
The Devils missed a loan payment to lenders last September, giving the lenders a reason to begin exploring options to liquidate their interest in the franchise. Along with this, Vanderbeek and co-owner Ray Chambers, principal of Brick City Hockey, are allegedly on the outs and Chambers is seeking to sell his $200 million interest in the team as soon as he is able.
In spite of the team’s unlikely run to the Stanley Cup Finals and the short-term financial boon that came along with it due to ticket and merchandising sales, the NHL isn’t convinced the Devils will survive long-term without intervention, and have begun the proceedings to seize control of the franchise in a similar manner to what the NBA did with the New Orleans Hornets.
The league has placed an August 14, 2012 deadline on Vanderbeek and the Devils’ ownership group to get their finances in line and become solvent and out from under debt obligations. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has alerted potential buyers to be ready to act on August 15 if he does indeed decide to push the current ownership group aside and place the team on the open market for bidding.
If indeed the Devils become seized by the NHL and are placed under league control– even if temporary– it will be a damaging blow to a league which desperately wants the business community, and its fans, for that matter, to believe it is on solid financial footing.
The best-case scenario here is that Vanderbeek and Chambers– if he decides to remain involved– get their act together and maintain control of the Devils.
We have seen what chaos league ownership of a franchise can cause in the NBA/Hornets example and can only hope it is avoided in this case.
Kris Hughes is the College Football Network Manager for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
Kris is also the host of Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.