As the reality of Seattle getting an NHL team recently sunk in, many in our community started thinking about the possibility of Portland doing the same. With the Coyotes (and to a lesser extent Hurricanes and Flames) potentially up for sale in the near future, the topic of potential owner(s) is a cornerstone of the conversation. This article rehashes the list of potential owners mentioned in the last blog post.
Scott McNealy: The tech billionaire is a hockey enthusiast, and the pick-up games he hosts are considered one the best networking opportunities in Silicon Valley. If he wanted to own a team, nearby Portland has a similar ethos to the Bay Area, so the thought has likely crossed his mind. While watching hockey boom in California, he put his children through the Jr. Sharks program before one of his sons, Maverick, became the world’s top amateur golfer.
Oren Koules: As a former stakeholder in the Tampa Bay Lightning, he makes no secret of his desire to have a hand in team ownership once again. Whether or not he could own a team outright at today’s price tag is questionable, but he could organize the necessary conglomerate. He is familiar with both Portland and the Moda Center, as both he and his son Miles played for the Winterhawks. Koules also had a front row seat to California’s hockey boom, putting Miles through the Jr. Kings program. He recently sold a junior hockey team he owned, the NA3HL’s Helena Bighorns; whether his intention was to find a team at a higher level or step away from hockey ownership entirely has yet to be made public.
Paul Allen: Not just the Trail Blazers owner, Allen owns the Moda Center through his entity Vulcan Sports and Entertainment. He is on record saying he would be interested in owning a hockey team if the price was right, but that hasn’t translated to any sort of active pursuit. He’s also stated he doesn’t want competition for Blazers tickets, so he likely would want at least a piece of the action if he wasn’t the outright owner. Whether or not he is the owner, he would be the “gatekeeper” for the Moda Center.
Interestingly, the Blazers’ current President and CEO, Chris McGowan worked for the aforementioned AEG as the Los Angeles Kings’ COO. Allen having a right-hand man with hockey experience can’t hurt Portland’s chances. We just have to hope he is willing to (or already does) pour honey in Allen’s ear about the upsides to hockey ownership.
Bill Gallacher: A Calgary native, the Winterhawks’ owner seems to be interviewed every other year by the Oregonian about his desire to own an NHL team. An existing (and hopefully healthy) relationship with Allen would bode well if he wanted to own a pro team in Portland. He owns a home in Scottsdale, but has yet to throw his name out there as a potential local owner, so his residence near the Coyotes’ current location may be irrelevant.
Matt Hulsizer: The Chicago hedge fund billionaire was bought out from his ownership in the Minnesota Wild last August, and is another person vocal about his desire to own an NHL team. Like Gallacher, he owns a home in Scottsdale, and was previously cited as a potential owner for the Coyotes. He was close to buying the team before walking away due to disagreements with the city of Glendale over the lease.
Ray Bartosczek and/or Anthony Lanza: The duo tried to buy the Coyotes and move them to Seattle in 2013, but the league’s desire to keep the team in Phoenix trumped their attempt. Should they be interested in moving them to Portland, the existing arena would make it much easier.
A few more names worth mentioning include Greg Jamison (former front runner to buy Coyotes whose family supposedly previously lived in Portland), John Graham (tried to move Coyotes to Saskatoon), Kenneth Fisher (local billionaire) and Phil Knight (duh…). Feel free to chime in with other potential owners, this list is far from exhaustive.
While everything Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway has stated since buying out the minority stakeholders revolves around him finding a long term solution in Phoenix, until they commit to privately financing the arena, the public will continue to speculate on the likelihood of their departure from Arizona.
The thought of an NHL rivalry with Vancouver never really excited Portland sports fans about an NHL team, but now that Seattle is likely only a few years away from having one, Portland is quickly warming up to the prospect of having pro hockey. Keep an eye on this blog for further developments. As previously stated, it’s only a matter of time…