Ownership changes (or lack thereof) in the NHL has been a hot topic this off-season.
It seems to me that, for all its problems, the League must be in pretty good shape when there are buyers for franchises in a non-expansion (so far) era.
Granted, the converse argument can be made: if there are multiple teams up for sale, how good can that be for the League? To that, I'd respond that it's better that teams be sold to new, interested parties than languish under owners who have lost interest. The recent sale of the Tampa Bay Lightning would seem to bear this out, as well; since it was handled under the collective radar of the fans and media at large, rather than having been a public spectacle, like the very public interest of Daryl Katz in the Oilers, or like that of more deeply troubled situations like Nashville or Pittsburgh.
Speaking of those two transactions, keep in mind that, in each case, there were multiple sets of suitors for each franchise. Yes, I understand that the presence of Sidney Crosby (and a slew of young talent) had a lot to do with interest in the Pens, but they still had several offers on the table before selling. The Nashville sale provides a pair of contrasting images of just who is getting involved in NHL ownership these days: Jim Balsillie and Boots Del Biaggio.
Balsillie caused a lot of conversation, and ruffled more than a few feathers, with his headline-fueling actions in pre-selling NHL hockey to Hamilton. It would seem pretty obvious that he's not prepared to stand by and wait for the NHL's old guard to come around to a new way of thinking. To a lot of fans, it's great news that someone feels that way--in a lot of ways, the old guard mentality led us all to lose a season and gain a cumbersome salary cap structure. In some ways, it could be dangerous--though not nearly as dangerous as naysayers may want to believe--because it is still important for the owners to maintain some commonality of purpose (hopefully, that of the good of the League and the game... hey, I said "hopefully" okay?).
By all accounts, Del Baggio appears to be taking the opposite tack; buying into a situation that isn't exactly what he wanted, to get into the ownership fraternity through the proverbial "front door." I have no doubt each will be rewarded for his efforts, no matter how different the paths they're taking.
Again, keep in mind the potential owners who've missed out on recent sales, and a certain Hollywood heavy who's reportedly waiting in the wings (Jerry Bruckheimer).
As the anniversary of the Gretzky-to-LA trade arrived, I'm reminded of two of the NHL's more infamous owners, as well. While the Gretzky deal turned out to be a palatable hockey transaction--thanks to another Cup in Edmonton and the success on and off the ice for the Kings--it was, at its core, a business move between two men with very real, non-hockey, agendas. The money included in the trade did not go into keeping the Oilers elite, or even competitive. It went to pay off debts accumulated by Peter Pocklington in other ventures. And, as pure as Bruce McNall's desire to enliven hockey in Southern California may have been, his fraudulent, and criminal, business dealings are a matter of public record.
I'm not prepared to tell you that all is well and the days of owners like Pocklington, McNall, and John Rigas (formerly of the Sabres and ill-fated Adelphia Communications) are over. But when high-profile, big-money people are aggresively trying to get involved with the NHL, the news can't be all bad.