Monday, December 6, 2010
Matthew Hulsizer: New deal imminent
By Scott Burnside
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Matthew Hulsizer, the man poised to take ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes, said Monday he expects a new lease agreement for the team's arena within the next week and to finalize the purchase of the team by the end of the year.
He added that he expects to bring in a president of the team who will have credibility in the hockey world. He made his comments at the NHL Board of Governors meetings here.
Hulsizer said he expects the city council in Glendale, Ariz., to announce details of a new lease agreement for Jobing.com Arena, home to the Coyotes, after a vote on the lease scheduled for Dec. 14. He also expects his big, which one source familiar with the negotiations put at $175 million, to be finalized by Dec. 31, the date the NHL has the option of relocating the team if a new owner isn't in place. That now appears unlikely to happen.
"Like I've said before, this is not a home-run investment for us," he said after Monday's meeting. "It's been my experience that if you make a great product, hockey teams have a lot of value. Those things tend to grow over time. I tend to be a longer-term investor. As I look out 25 years, I think people will look back and say 'Hey, that might have looked smart.'
"Right now, it's not going to look smart for a long time though," he added with a laugh.
He also talked about how he has managed to overcome hurdles that prevented other potential suitors from buying the team.
"I don't know that I've resolved the issues," he said. "They may have been unwilling to lose money and maybe I am."
He acknowledged that even with the team playing well turning the franchise's fortunes around will not be a rapid process.
"I think we're going to have to earn the fans back," said Hulsizer. "I don't think it's something people are going to immediately give us credit and say, `Oh, there's a new owner and now (we'll go).' I'd love for that to be the case, but I don't think that's going to be the case.
"I think we're going to have to earn back their faith and I think we're going to have to show that by putting out a great product," he said.
Although he will not relocated from his home in Chicago to the Phoenix area permanently, Hulsizer said his father and father-in-law have both been looking at buying property in Arizona.
While he will be the majority owner of the team, Hulsizer said he won't be running it. Some members of the Ice Edge group of investors, the group of businessmen who tried to buy the team last spring, seem likely to play a role when the purchase is completed. They will be minority owners as well, Hulsizer said.
Hulsizer, a former Division III hockey player, also promised he will be bringing in a president who hockey people would trust.
"It's certainly not going to be me," said Hulsizer. "It will be somebody with experience and it'll be somebody who you guys would all look at and say `Yeah, I get it, this is a person who is an 'A' player,'" he said. "This is what we're going to try to do -- we're going to hire 'A' quality people across the organization, we're going to try to put a great product on the ice and hopefully earn back the fans," Hulsizer, 40, said.
One thing Hulsizer made clear is that he doesn't plan on making any changes to the hockey operations personnel that have made the Coyotes a competitive team on the ice.
"Don Maloney is a terrific GM, he's one of the best," said Hulsizer. "Dave Tippett is a terrific coach. I'm an investor, I'm writing a check. I'm not running the team; I'm not running the arena. We're going to hire the best people in the world to do that."
As for his hour-long meeting with the executive committee, part of the process that will culminate with full ratification by the entire ownership group, Hulsizer said it was a get-acquainted process.
"I think they wanted to know what kind of a guy I was," said Hulsizer. "I'm a hockey fan and a hockey coach and a hockey player. And I'd love to join the club." "I played hockey in my driveway 30, 35 years ago -- and I'm shooting against the garage," he said. "I don't think said I want to grow up and be an owner. I did want to be a player, but I'm certainly obviously flattered and honored.
"I don't know that I would have ever thought I could afford to be an owner."
Scott Burnside is a hockey writer for ESPN.com.