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THN.com Blog: Ownership concern in Minnesota and a classy Pat Burns ceremony in Montreal

Brent Burns and the Minnesota Wild have a 10-7-2 record that ranks them 10th in the West. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Brent Burns and the Minnesota Wild have a 10-7-2 record that ranks them 10th in the West. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Some Monday musings for your dining and dancing pleasure:

MINNESOTA OWNERSHIP TROUBLES?

One of the facets of Gary Bettman’s job as NHL commissioner that doesn’t get near enough attention is his constant behind-the-scenes work putting out ownership fires.

Well, Bettman may have to put his fire retardant suit on once again when it comes to Minnesota Wild minority owner Philip Falcone.

Falcone is a Minnesota native, former collegiate hockey player at Harvard and a Wall Street maverick who made billions of dollars essentially gambling on the real estate crisis in the United States.

Falcone, who owns 40 percent of the Wild and is the team’s alternate governor, appears to be in a fair amount of hot water with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC and the district attorney’s office in New York are investigating, among other things, a $113-million loan Falcone took out from his hedge fund, Harbinger Capital Partners of New York, to pay a tax bill.

But the authorities are also investigating every one of Falcone’s business transactions during the past five years, including his minority purchase of the Wild and his financial dealings with Wild majority owner, Craig Leipold.

It’s alleged that in addition to the loan from his company, Falcone also took out a loan from the Bank of America, part of which might have been used to purchase his stake in the Wild. It’s alleged that when he took out the loan, he leveraged money and collateral that were property of Harbinger Capital.

Meanwhile, Falcone’s hedge fund has taken a beating. Goldman Sachs and the Blackstone Group have recently pulled their money out of the fund, causing the value of the fund to drop from $26 billion two years ago to $9 billion now.

In St. Louis, despite the fact the Blues are on an upswing and have sold out every game this season, rumors will not go away that the team is quietly being shopped for a new buyer. One source said Blues chairman and majority owner Dave Checketts has enlisted Citibank to help find a new owner. The Blues had recently been looking for minority investors, but it’s believed they are looking for new owners this time around. 

And that, of course, would be another stinging indictment of the NHL’s economic landscape. The Blues have sold out all nine home games this season and have been prudent in their rebuild. If they feel they can’t make a go of it even now, what does that say for the league’s new economic system?

DONALD FEHR WAITS ON PLAYER VOTE

The coronation of Don Fehr as executive director of the NHL players’ association is coming, albeit at a glacial pace. Fehr has finally wrapped up his fall tour and voting has begun among the players on both the ratification of Fehr and on the NHLPA’s revamped constitution.

The announcements on both are expected in the next couple of weeks, but they are considered a formality at this point.

One factor that could be holding things up is the votes for both Fehr and the constitution are membership-wide votes, meaning each player will have his say. Previously, players would have voted amongst themselves, then the player representative would have cast a vote on behalf of the team.

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CLASSY CEREMONY FOR PAT BURNS

Thank goodness the ceremony for Pat Burns was held on a night when the Toronto Maple Leafs were playing in Montreal and not the other way around.

As usual, the Canadiens ceremony reeked of class and dignity. It was poignant and touching, without being over the top. There is not a team in the league that does these things better than Montreal.

And you can argue there isn’t a team in the league that does them worse than the Maple Leafs. Not sure what they would have done, but having seen enough of them I can say it would have been long, drawn-out and ham-handed and probably would have featured that dopey Carlton the Bear doing something inane.

POINTS VS. POINTS PERCENTAGE

The Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks should thank their lucky stars the NHL bases its standings during the season on points and not points percentage.

If you look at the NHL standings today, the Blackhawks are in seventh place in the Western Conference with 24 points and the Canucks are in eighth with 23. But if you based it on points percentage, the Blackhawks’ .522 would put them in 12th and the Canucks, at .575, would be in 11th. The Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators, with identical .583 points percentages, would take their places in the playoffs.

SHODDY ATTENDANCE FIGURES IN NON-TRADITIONAL HOCKEY MARKETS

Led by the Phoenix Coyotes, the NHL has already had 13 announced crowds of less than 10,000 this season. The Atlanta Thrashers have played before fewer than 20,000 eyeballs three times this season and the New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets twice.

And that, of course, is the announced attendance number. What we don’t know is how many more sub-10,000 crowds there would be if the numbers weren’t padded by giveaways. Take those into account and that number might double or triple.

When the NHL was battling to save the Coyotes, one of the arguments was that there was no way to judge fan support because the team had been so terrible for so long. But after making the playoffs last year and getting off to an impressive start this season, the Coyotes have experienced virtually no spike in attendance.

So there you have it. Phoenix is not a hockey market.

 

Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear every Monday throughout the season.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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