Throughout the process of signing Ilya Kovalchuk, a new theme arose not usually seen within the organization. Jeff Vanderbeek, the Devils’ owner, seemed to be intimately involved in the process. It’s something fans of the organization aren’t used to seeing, and this involvement could become a more aggressive trend in the coming years.
The Devils have had three owners in their history, each with varying levels on involvement with the team. The first, Dr. John J. McMullen, purchased the Devils in 1982. He was responsible for moving the team from Colorado to New Jersey, where they settled in the Meadowlands. He also brought in president and general manager Lou Lamoriello during the 1987-88 season. No one can doubt McMullen’s involvement in getting New Jersey a professional sports franchise and making them competitve. However, in my research, it never appeared that McMullen dealt with signing players. While he was involved, he didn’t seem to participate in the on-ice aspect of the team.
Shortly before winning the 2000 Stanley Cup championship, McMullen sold the team to Puck Holdings, a subdivision of YankeeNets. YankeeNets, a joint venture of the Yankees and Nets, wanted to create a regional sports network to cover their teams. They purchased the Devils for $175 million in an effort to cover the major league sports market in the tri-state area. Puck Holdings also thought it would increase the chances of getting a new stadium in Newark for the Nets.
But it wouldn’t work. Reports leaked that the Yankees and Nets had internal disagreements, with the Yankees believing both teams were money-losers. There was no interest in building a new stadium for the teams. During their ownership, Puck Holdings remained largely out of the picture, making Lamoriello CEO of the Devils. Lamoriello ran the day-to-day operations of the organization. Clearly, Puck Holdings was far from an involved ownership group.
Vanderbeek, a minority owner when Puck Holdings ran the Devils, purchased the team in 2004. He became a proponent in getting the Devils their own arena, and helped to get the Prudential Center built. Unlike the other two owners, Vanderbeek brought a fan’s perspective to ownership. The former executive vice president of Lehman Brothers was also a Devils’ season-ticket holder and a New Jersey native. It’s this perspective which could change the owner dynamic within the organization.
Continue reading after the jump for my reasoning why Vanderbeek might be bucking the “hands-off” ownership trend.no comments