Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How Much Power Does The Anschutz Group Have In The NHL?

It is well known that some NHL owners are in Gary Bettman's inner circle and wield significant power on the NHL's decisions, while others (such as the New York Rangers) are on the outs with the commissioner of the NHL. Probably the owner who wields the most power in the league right now is the Anschutz Group, headed by Phillip Anschutz, who owns the Los Angeles Kings.

The Anschutz Group owns many arenas worldwide. Many of the international games played by the NHL, such as last year's two games in London, England played between the Anaheim Ducks and LA Kings, are played in Anschutz owned arenas. This year, they have ties to the arenas in Prague, Czech Republic (they do not own this arena, but it shares common sponsorship with Anschutz arenas in London and Berlin) where the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning will open the season and Stockholm, Sweden where the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators will open their season.

When the NHL discusses expansion, it is usually Anschutz owned arenas that will house teams. The two leading candidates for North American expansion appear to be Kansas City, where Anschutz owns the arena and Las Vegas, where Anschutz is building an arena. Anschutz owns several arenas in Europe. Should European expansion occur, it will fill Anschutz arenas as well.

Phillip Anschutz is in a position to help set NHL policy. The policy he sets will benefit his holdings and that may be very different from benefitting the NHL or hockey in general. As a case in point, He has been involved in some shady NHL-related dealings. An Anschutz employee, William "Boots" Del Biaggio had been hired to try to bring NHL hockey to Kansas City. Eventually, it was decided that the best way to relocate a team to Kansas City was for Del Biaggio to buy into the Nashville Predators, with intent to move the team in the future if local ownership could not keep the team in Nashville. Anschutz secretly loaned Del Biaggio some of the money that he used to buy his share of the Predators. This scheme was exposed when Del Biaggio declared bankruptcy, as he had many other shady and fraudulent dealings. Clearly, Anschutz is willing to do things that are not in the NHL's best interests (such as having financial influence in more than one NHL franchise) if it is in his business interests. To date, there has been no punishment to Phillip Anschutz for this deal.

The NHL should be looking out for its interests and the interests of hockey in general. This isn't happening if it allows Phillip Anschutz to exert his influence on its direction. Anschutz will look out for himself and not worry about the overall health of the NHL or hockey in general. His past record shows this. The influence of Phillip Anschutz on the NHL's direction is a bad thing. No one owner should get too powerful. No one owner should put his own financial interests above the NHL's interests. The office of the commissioner should exist to see that the NHL does what is best for itself and for hockey. It should not be driven by a handful of powerful owners.


Any sense of why some owners have influence and other don’t?

I mean as a Detroit fan I find it interesting that Ilitch seems to have very little influence in the NHL – but you would think reviving an original six franchise and really actually being wealthy would carry some weight…

Or frankly LA is a joke - if you are not on ‘Bizarro World’ how can the Anschutz Group have managed to achieve more influence than the owners of the Rangers.
My best guess (and this is only a guess) is that it has to do with personal dynamics. Which owner gets along best with Gary Bettman. Its not driven by anything I would consider logic.
Im really interested in Pauls question "Any sense of why some owners have influence and other don’t?" NHL fans are about to find out just how powerful the owner of the Los Angeles Kings, Phil Anschutz, is.
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