Monday, 25 August 2014

"Lose Money To Make Money"

Charles Schulz was a pretty big hockey fan. He grew up in Minnesota where he developed his craft in drawing comic strips before striking gold with his most famous work known as Peanuts. Schulz often has Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Woodstock, and the rest of the gang on the ice in his comic strips and in his cartoons, and he continued to portray them in hockey and other sports after he moved to California in 1958.

His move to California saw him miss hockey in a large way, and the only rink in the county where he lived closed in the early-1960s. He was involved with California Seals as a season ticket holder when the NHL awarded a franchise to Barry Van Gerbig in 1966. The Seals, renamed as the Oakland Seals in December 1967, struggled out of the gate in terms of attendance, and were eventually purchased by Charles Finley, the owner of the Oakland Athletics. The team was renamed as the California Golden Seals on October 15, 1970, and Schulz would remain a season ticket holder until the team moved in 1976.

Schulz lent his talents to Finley as well as he came up with Sparky, the unofficial mascot of the California Golden Seals. Schulz also built an arena in Santa Rosa, California called the Redwood Empire Ice Arena that featured a snack bar called "The Warm Puppy" where he would often have lunch. Schulz and his son, Monte, would play pick-up games on Tuesdays in the arena, and Schulz founded Snoopy's Senior World Hockey Tournament in 1975 that is still going strong today.

I've always wondered why Charles Schulz never got involved in trying to keep the Seals in California or why he never got involved with the North Stars in Minnesota. He was a huge fan of the game, and clearly loved watching the Seals play in California. Nevertheless, Schulz kept his distance. This has always puzzled me when he could have had more of an impact.

Surprisingly, Schulz answered why he never pursued ownership of a hockey or baseball team in 1977! Schulz was interviewed in the Victoria Advocate on September 11, 1977, and he gave a very interesting answer!

He uses the term "insane" twice when it comes to owning a professional sport team which, to me, is quite fascinating. I appreciate that Schulz knew it took "a whole different kind of wealth" to own a team, but he literally calls every owner "insane" in terms of owning a franchise. He also astutely points out the financial risk in owning a team, making it clear that his calling was at the drawing board and not the board room table. So despite his love of the game, he wasn't going to foolishly buy into professional sports franchise ownership for any reason.

Sometimes, I have a greater appreciation for those who refused the bright lights of the game than those who risked it all. Let's not forget that Schulz is a member of the US Hockey Hall of Fame for his contributions to the game. In saying this, his contributions have done so much more for so many more people than perhaps what he could have done in owning a team.

"I'd be insane to get involved where you lose money to make money." Statements like that still ring true today.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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