New Jersey Devils Announce New Owners, New Era of Hockey
By Kristin Tullo (@K_Tullo)
After years of financial concerns swarming around the New Jersey Devils, the sale of the franchise as well as the operating rights of the Prudential Center to a group led by Philadelphia 76ers co-owners, Joshua Harris and David Blitzer was announced Thursday morning.
“I’m just excited,” Lamoriello said Thursday at the Prudential Center. “Over the last 10 days or so I’ve spent considerable time with them (Harris and Blitzer) and I came back more and more impressed. Not only with who they are and what they’ve accomplished, but with what their vision is.”
What they have accomplished is what has brought them to New Jersey, bailing former owner Jeff Vanderbeek out of the debt he was drowning in by taking over the franchise.
Vanderbeek will remain on board as a senior advisor.
As far as their vision, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman seemed to put it perfectly when he said the new duo would take what has been built by past owners and take it to the next level.
“We look forward to building excellence on and off the ice,” Joshua Harris said as he took to the podium for the first time as the Devils’ owner. “ We have an incredible opportunity in front of us to revitalize this organization. We can rethink the way business is done and infuse the franchise with resources, talent both on the hockey and business side and the experience necessary to give the Devils the chance to achieve long term growth and sustainability at an elite level.”
Harris referred to the change of hands as a “new era of Devils hockey” and as part of this new era Scott O’Neil will take over as Chief Executive Officer of the New Jersey Devils and the Prudential Center. The same position he was hired for a month ago with the Philadelphia 76ers which Harris and Blitzer purchased from Comcast Spectator in 2008.
O’Neil, who recently bought a house in Westchester, Pa. — plans on splitting his work week between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He will be assisted by Hugh Weber and wants to “have some fun here” as far as selling the building and the organizations tradition in order to bring in more fans and sponsors.
As far as questions about bringing an NBA team back to New Jersey, it’s not on anyone’s agenda and O’Neil prefers it that way.
The new CEO was energized and excited when discussing his plans for his new position and says having just the Devils playing in the arena makes it easier to plan other events outside of sports. Without basketball and hockey taking all of the weekend dates, it leaves room for concerts and family shows which do better on Fridays and Saturdays according to O’Neil.
O’Neil has only worked with Harris and Blitzer for one month but believes in the ownership group and what they are capable of.
“They are competitive, they want to win and they have the resources to do it,” said O’Neil.
Wanting to win is high on the list of priorities when it comes to not just Lou Lamoriello, but the fans that watch and support the team. O’Neil also had a message for them:
“To the Season Ticket Holders past, present and future: We need you here. We appreciate you, we love you and we want more of you. Bring your friends.”
Part of the job as CEO will be bringing in the passion that O’Neil knows is out there and creating “home ice advantage” to the best of his ability.
While O’Neil works on bringing in the money, it will be General Manager and President Lou Lamoriello’s responsibility as it has been, to spend that money.
But does Harris’ net worth of over $2 billion mean blank checks for the GM?
“They are committed to winning and I think that’s all I have to say,” Lamoriello responded. “ Spending money is not always going to allow you to win or have success. Spending it the right way but also having the ability to do something when necessary is also important.”
Without saying it, though he did numerous times, Lamoriello showed signs of excitement of what is still to come for the franchise he has been a part of since 1987. With all of the Devils’ employees present, the New Jersey Devils became what a successful franchise should be but hasn’t been over the last few years — stable.
“On behalf of all our employees that are here, this is an exciting time. Let’s look forward to it (and) never look back,” Lamoriello concluded. “The season will be upon us and let’s get excited about it.”
A big day in the history of the New Jersey Devils and for now, it looks as though things are headed in the right direction for the Devils. Things seem to be status quo and that’s the way New Jersey likes it.