Latest in a series of articles about the 2020 futures of major sports leagues.
The roster of NHL owners includes some heavyweights in the world of billionaires. Among them are Walmart heir Ann Walton Kroenke and her commercial real estate magnate husband, Stan Kroenke (Colorado Avalanche); real estate/arena operator Philip Anschutz and partner Edward Roski Jr. (Kings); Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli and his wife, Susan (Ducks); and assorted software, venture capital and media moguls.
Most NHL teams have owners whose pockets are deep enough to keep them going during the league’s ongoing pause. But a few teams — listed alphabetically — could be in precarious shape even if the NHL resumes play.
A perennial pick as the shakiest franchise, the Coyotes have had some stability since Alex Meruelo bought them in 2019. But they remain the NHL’s least valuable franchise: They were valued at $300 million by Forbes, which pegged their operating deficit last season at $15 million. When the season was paused, they ranked 28th in percentage of seats filled at Gila River Arena, a bad sign in a gate-driven league. A new arena remains a must, but it’s a distant dream.
Tom Dundon bought a majority interest in the Hurricanes and the operating rights to PNC Arena in January of 2018. The entertaining young ‘Canes reached the Eastern Conference finals last spring and held the first wild-card playoff berth when the season stopped. But Dundon raised a red flag when he abruptly pulled the plug on the Alliance of American Football before the end of his first season as its controlling owner. Could he do the same with his hockey team?
Owner Tom Gaglardi made his fortune in Canadian hotels, restaurants and construction, all of which have suffered during coronavirus-related shutdowns. In addition, he had several hotel projects in the Dallas area planned or under construction when the world ground to a halt.
According to Forbes, the Panthers had a league-worst operating loss of $21 million last season. Forbes pegged the franchise value in December 2019 at $310 million, 30th among the NHL’s 31 teams. Forbes estimated owner Vincent Viola’s net worth at $2.3 billion, but rich people don’t stay rich by holding on to iffy investments.
Next-to-last in the standings and last in attendance after playing to 65.9% of capacity at home, the mismanaged Senators also suffer from the fall of the Canadian dollar because they must pay players in U.S. dollars. Owner Eugene Melnyk is tremendously disliked in Ottawa, but he’s a resident of Barbados, far enough away to mute the constant criticism.