Friday, 6 September 2019

Keeping It In The Family

When Bill Wirtz's health was failing, it was a pretty easy assumption to make in knowing that his son, Rocky Wirtz, would likely take over the Chicago Blackhawks franchise. When Harold Ballard's reign of terror finally ended with his passing in 1990, the Leafs found new owners who began to work on restoring the club's former glory. With today's announcement that Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs had effectively signed over the Boston Bruins to his six children equally, it marks a significant change for both the NHL and the Boston Bruins moving forward.

First, this is a monumental moment for the NHL as the man who wielded the most power in the NHL has effectively stepped down. Jacobs learned a lot from the two men mentioned above - Wirtz and Ballard - while he was a younger man, and those lessons proved fortuitous as the Bruins morphed into a powerhouse in the 1990s before finally finding the right mix of players to capture the Stanley Cup in the last decade while being one of the NHL's best squads during that time.

What might be forgotten is that Jacobs was also the Chairman of the Board of Directors in the NHL, and his influence on the other owners when it came to NHL business matters was large. Jacobs, who was voted as the chairman in 2007, has presided over two lockouts in the NHL, and he has repeatedly sought options for owners that will earn them more money without committing more money to the hockey-related revenue streams. While some players and agents likely view Jacobs as an enemy of the NHLPA, there's no doubt that he helped owners make more money over the last decade than anyone before him.

In making this agreement to sign over the team to his children, the 80 year-old Jacobs will essentially allow Charlie, his youngest son, to continue running the Bruins as he has for the last five seasons. Charlie's experience should keep the Bruins near the top of the NHL's power rankings, but it may come with some softer stances on issues as Charlie, like Chicago's Rocky Wirtz, seems more in-tune with current times and technologies. Along with Charlie, sons Jerry Jr. and Lou and daughters Lisann, Lynn and Katie will now be responsible for the overall successes of not only the Bruins, but for all of Delaware North's Boston Holdings company which includes the Bruins.

There likely will be a vote at the next NHL Board of Governors meeting on who takes over from Jacobs as the Chairman, but speculating on who that may be at this time isn't important. What does matter is that the NHLPA has a week to make its decision on whether to opt out of the current CBA or not, and this news may change some minds as a more agreeable Board of Governors may emerge with Jacobs stepping down. The NHL has already voted to remain in the current CBA, so if the NHLPA does vote to leave it likely will be strictly about the amount of money being shared between the owners and players rather than there being an us-vs-them hardline stance from either side.

If you're a fan of hockey, Jacobs stepping down could mark a significant shift in breaking up "the old boys' club" of NHL ownership. While Jacobs' departure won't change things overnight, more labour peace and the acceptance of new ideas by the owners could lead to a more harmonious NHL and, in turn, hockey in general. Things like the Olympics, women in more prominent roles, and better cooperation among leagues should be goals each year, and the changing of the guard, so to speak, could lead to further partnerships and opportunities.

Make no mistake that the NHL is losing one of its most influential people. Jacobs is in the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder, and there's no doubt that the Bruins and the NHL benefited from his leadership. But as times change, so should the leadership of influential businesses like the NHL. Having Charlie Jacobs - a man credited with making the Bruins franchise more fan-friendly - take over the decision-making seat for the Bruins as a whole should lead to more great things from the Bruins.

Let's just hope that the NHL Board of Governors follows suit and looks to its new generation when electing a chairman.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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