So why do people buy junior hockey teams?
The reasons are many and varied, but it’s a question that came quick and often after the Guelph Storm was sold to a pair of Toronto businessmen, Joel Feldberg and Jeffrey Bly, just prior to the start of this season.
The ‘why buy a junior team’ generally falls under the following:
- To make money
- Because you have strong connections to a city and want to contribute to its well being.
- Because you love the game of hockey and want to be involved in it at the highest level possible.
- To maintain a tradition.
- To potentially further your child’s hockey career.
- To move it somewhere else.
- For fun.
- For ego.
- Some combination of the above.
In the OHL we have seen all of these reasons play out over the years and I imagine the buying of the Guelph Storm involves some combination of the above. I’m not judging any of these reasons. But that’s the way it is.
We can rule out a couple of them, given that the new owners appear to have no connection to Guelph and they don’t need the money.
And before you get concerned, there’s no reason to believe the new owners want to move the team. The Storm’s lease with the city runs to 2026 and Guelph has a very solid fan base and a successful franchise on and off the ice.
Of course the other part of the equation is ‘why was the team was sold in the first place?’ a question that is just as interesting for those of us who like (or get paid) to speculate on such matters.
There was no reason to believe there was any rift between the four men who owned the team. But business relationships, and ownership agreements, can be complicated matters. Things change. Circumstances change. Agreements have many elements, some of which lay dormant until they don’t.
Perhaps it was just time for one or all four owners to get out of the game at that level and cash in their chips, so to speak.
What will the sale of the team mean to you the fans? To the on-ice product?
Ideally, nothing, and hockey people will be hired to do hockey things.
But as with all businesses, at the end of the day the people signing the cheques call the shots. We have already seen one move, with Michael Henrich joining the team as an assistant coach. Henrich is definitely qualified for the position, having played at numerous levels and coached and taught at the minor levels. But he also has connections to the new owners. He didn’t just fall out of the sky.
As for how much the new owners paid, I’m told by people with more knowledge than I that my guesstimate of a sale price of around $10 million was “way too low.” That puts it in the $13 million to $15 million range.
Crazy? Who knows. But OHL franchises are a finite item. Ones for sale are even scarcer.
You might think that hamburger is only worth $8, but if there were only 20 of them in existence, with no more being made, there are those who would gladly pay thousands for that hamburger.
The normal rules of business do not necessarily apply when deep pockets and the desired object is one of few.
All fans can hope for is that the team is treated with the reverence it deserves. Until we have reason to believe otherwise, let’s cling to that belief.