Which NHL Owners Are the Least Evil?

EvilBatman

Ottawa Senators fans are in the market for a new team. Over the past year, Eugene Melnyk has seemingly gone out of his way to make it impossible to want to attend a Senators game if it means contributing in any way to his financial well-being. He’s certainly gassed any goodwill remaining in the tank after rescuing the team from bankruptcy over a decade ago.

But how evil is Eugene Melnyk, really, when compared to his fellow billionaires? So long as the NHL’s business model requires some wacky rich guy or gal to want to add a hockey franchise to their Batcave, we’ll be dealing with a veritable rogues gallery of arch-conservatives and moldy white dudes who made their fortunes in less than inspiring ways. The odd consortium of local business interests, like those in Nashville and Winnipeg, are in the minority. So, if you’re going to pick another team to root for, you may as well make the relative level of each majority owner’s evilness a starting point.

How does a guy working off the side of his desk assess the evilness of a billionaire owner of a hockey franchise? In three airtight ways:

  1. Using almost exclusively what is available on Wikipedia.
  2. Assessing, unbelievably roughly, the proportion of the owner’s personal fortune and time dedicated to philanthropy.
  3. My stereotypical understanding of the evilness of their primary industry, be it different from owning a hockey team.

There are a few safe assumptions you can make about anybody whose personal fortune is in the billions of dollars. First, they probably sit on the board of a foundation or fundraising entity, usually associated with their business or hockey club. This doesn’t mean that they donate significant proportions of their personal wealth to that organization, though you can assume that they give something to their foundations, including money and time. They also probably donate some small, undisclosed amounts to various causes and campaigns. For this article, I was looking for philanthropic involvement above and beyond the occasional conference call to hear about foundation financials.

This article is meant to be a jumping off point for your own irresponsible Googling. I didn’t do a deep dive to find out if the St. Louis Blues’ owner once punched a goat at the petting zoo. Obviously, this is not a comprehensive or scientific assessment of evilness, both because I don’t have the time and because notions of morality are socially constructed and ratified via discourse and as such are easily subjected to a posteriori deconstruction whether or not you believe in essentialist beliefs. This is evidenced, first and foremost, by the following usage of Dennis Hopper’s portrayal of Bowser from the 1993 movie Super Mario Bros:

EVILNESS RATING SCALE

Only a little bit evil Capture

Pretty damned evil Capture Capture

Mostly evil Capture Capture Capture

Almost exclusively evil Capture Capture Capture Capture

Insufficient information on Wikipedia to assess evilness Capture

 

Anaheim Ducks Henry Samueli Anaheim Ducks Hockey Club LLC 2005

Evilness of primary industry

“Broadcom Inc. is a designer, developer and global supplier of products based on analog and digital semiconductor technologies within four primary markets: wired infrastructure, wireless communications, enterprise storage, and industrial & others.”

Okee doke.

Philanthropic activities

To date the Samueli’s have committed over $500 million to philanthropic causes, many of them involving STEM research and education. They’ve been involved in integrative and alternative medicine, which can be contentious. They’re worth $3.8 billion.

Only a little bit evil Capture

Arizona Coyotes Andrew Barroway IceArizona Acquisition Co., LLC 2014

Evilness of primary industry

He’s a hedge fund manager.

Philanthropic activities

None reported. Apparently he’s only worth about $50 million. I have no idea how Arizona is still a hockey team.

Insufficient information on Wikipedia to assess evilness Capture

Boston Bruins Jeremy Jacobs Boston Professional Hockey Association, Inc 1975

Evilness of primary industry

Delaware North is a global food service and hospitality company. The company also operates in the lodging, sporting, airport, gaming and entertainment industries.

Philanthropic activities

A bit over $50 million, most of which went to the University of Buffalo. Some medical research and funding the Bruins Foundation to improve the lives of children. Keep in mind, he’s the 481st richest person in the world, worth about $4.7 billion. For what’s it’s worth, Jacobs is apparently a bit of a hardliner when negotiating the CBA with his players.

Pretty damned evil Capture Capture

Buffalo Sabres Terrence Pegula Pegula Sports and Entertainment; Hockey Western New York, LLC 2011

Evilness of primary industry

Holds business interests in natural gas development, real estate, entertainment and professional sports

Philanthropic activities

$100 million to Penn State’s hockey program and $12 million to Houghton College. He’s worth $4.3 billion. I dock him a bit here for his philanthropy mostly being support for sports programs.

Pretty damned evil Capture Capture

Calgary Flames N. Murray Edwards Calgary Sports and Entertainment 1980

Evilness of primary industry

Canadian oil sands.

Philanthropic activities

None reported. He’s worth $2.2 billion.

Almost exclusively evil Capture Capture Capture Capture

Carolina Hurricanes Tom Dundon Gale Force Sports And Entertainment, LLC; Carolina Hurricanes Hockey Club 2018

Evilness of primary industry

Financial services and entertainment.

NOTE: After publishing, a reader sent me this article about how Dundon profited off of sub-prime loans. I think you could be justified in adding another evil to the pile.

Philanthropic activities

None reported. Net worth unknown, but it’s at least $1 billion. If his charitable work was significant, you’d think some info would be out there. He’s new to the scene, so maybe more will emerge with time.

Pretty damned evil Capture Capture

Chicago Blackhawks Rocky Wirtz Chicago Blackhawk Hockey Team, Inc. 1954

Evilness of primary industry

Real estate, wine and insurance.

Philanthropic activities

None reported. He’s worth $4.2 billion. Is docked points for being hockey’s equivalent of Gilded Age money.

Mostly evil Capture Capture Capture

Colorado Avalanche Ann Walton Kroenke Kroenke Sports & Entertainment; Colorado Avalanche, LLC 2000

Evilness of primary industry

Heiress to the Walmart fortune

Philanthropic activities

Vice President of the Audrey J. Walton and Ann Walton Kroenke Charitable Foundation. In 2014, the foundation had assets exceeding $3 million. Her worth is $6 billion. That’s pathetic. Also Walmart busts unions and keeps pay low.

Almost exclusively evil Capture Capture Capture Capture 

Columbus Blue Jackets John P. McConnell Colhoc Limited Partnership; The Columbus Blue Jackets Hockey Club 2000

Evilness of primary industry

Worthington Industries is a global diversified metals manufacturing company

Philanthropic activities

Unknown. Wealth unknown.

Insufficient information on Wikipedia to assess evilness Capture

Dallas Stars Tom Gaglardi Dallas Stars LP 2011

Evilness of primary industry

Owns a company that operates hotels and restaurants.

Philanthropic activities

Unknown. Wealth unknown.

Insufficient information on Wikipedia to assess evilness Capture

Detroit Red Wings Estate of Mike Ilitch Ilitch Holdings Inc.; Olympia Entertainment; Detroit Red Wings, Inc. 1982

Evilness of primary industry

Owns Little Ceasars pizza chain.

Philanthropic activities

These are pretty extensive, so I’m just going to quote from the Wikipedia page:

“The Ilitchs established a travelling kitchen to feed the needy, which has served over 2 million so far. In 2006, inspired by a veteran returning to civilian life after losing both of his legs in war, Ilitch founded the Little Caesars Veterans Program to provide honorably discharged veterans with a business opportunity when they transition from service or seek a career change. Ilitch received the Secretary’s Award from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for this program in 2007; it is the highest honor given to a civilian by the department. The Little Caesars Amateur Hockey Program, established by Ilitch in 1968, helped thousands of children.Additionally, Ilitch Charities for Children was founded in 2000 as a non-profit foundation dedicated to improving the lives of children in the areas of health, education and recreation. In 2008, the charity was renamed Ilitch Charities and its focus was broadened. The new charity invests in the community’s future by supporting innovative, collaborative and measurable programs that promote economic development and spur job growth, as a means to address social issues such as poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and hunger. As a result of his philanthropy, the School of Business for Wayne State University in Detroit is named the “Mike Ilitch School of Business”

From 1994 until her death in 2005, Ilitch paid Rosa Parks’s rent to enable her to live in a safer part of Detroit. (!)

Worth $6 billion.

Only a little bit evil Capture

Edmonton Oilers Daryl Katz Rexall Sports Corporation; Oilers Entertainment Group 2008

Evilness of primary industry

Pharmacy, real estate and entertainment.

Philanthropic activities

Katz has donated “over $50 million” to organizations and institutions, such as pharmacy schools and hospitals. He’s worth $2.9 billion. Is docked points for duping Edmonton City Council into paying for his hockey arena.

Mostly evil Capture Capture Capture

Florida Panthers Vincent Viola Sunrise Sports and Entertainment; Florida Panthers Hockey Club, Ltd. 2013

Evilness of primary industry

Trading and marketing. For what it’s worth, Trump nominated him for Secretary of the Army.

Philanthropic activities

Various donations to military organizations and a Catholic Theology university department. He’s worth about $1.8 billion.

Almost exclusively evil Capture Capture Capture Capture

Los Angeles Kings Philip Anschutz and Edward P. Roski Anschutz Entertainment Group, The Los Angeles Kings Hockey Club LP 1995

Evilness of primary industry

Anshutz controls everything from “energy, railroads, real estate, sports, newspapers, movies, theaters, arenas and music.” He is described as a Christian conservative. Rosky is in real estate.

Philanthropic activities

Anschutz donated over $100 million to educational institutions, and has won awards for his philanthropy. Anshutz is worth a stunning $12 billion. Rosky has donated $23 million to arts education and $25 million to health research. His foundation awards $2 million annually. Rosky is worth another $5.8 billion.

Only a little bit evil Capture

Minnesota Wild Craig Leipold Minnesota Sports and Entertainment; Minnesota Wild Hockey Club, LP 2008

Evilness of primary industry

Telemarketing.

Philanthropic activities

None reported. Wealth unknown. “Leipold is a prominent Republican and supporter of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney. The Xcel Energy Center hosted the 2008 Republican National Convention.”

Almost exclusively evil Capture Capture Capture Capture

Montreal Canadiens Molson family Club de hockey Canadien, Inc. 2009

Evilness of primary industry

Depends on where you stand on the sale of massive amounts of watery beer.

Philanthropic activities

The Molson Family Foundation has awarded grants to artists for a half-century. “The Molson Family Foundation, together with several members of the family, contributed the major part of the funds required for the construction of the Molson Fine Arts Building at Bishop’s University.”

Only a little bit evil Capture

Nashville Predators Thomas Cigarran Predators Holdings LLC 2007

Dude doesn’t have a Wikipedia page (seriously), but I think he owns long-term care homes in Tennessee under the name American Health Corporation.

Insufficient information on Wikipedia to assess evilness Capture

New Jersey Devils Joshua Harris New Jersey Devils LLC 2013

Evilness of primary industry

Co-founded Apollo Global Management, which, uh, “specializes in leveraged buyout transactions and purchases of distressed securities involving corporate restructuring, special situations, and industry consolidations.” He’s a prominent Trump supporter, advising on Trump’s extremely successful infrastructure investment plan. He was almost offered a job in the administration despite (or because of) lending $184 million to Jared Kushner.

Philanthropic activities

None reported. Worth  $3.5 billion.

Almost exclusively evil Capture Capture Capture Capture

New York Islanders Jon Ledecky and Scott D. Malkin New York Islanders Hockey Club, LP 2014

Evilness of primary industry

Not a lot of info on either of them. Malkin owns some retail.

Philanthropic activities

None reported. Wealth unknown.

Insufficient information on Wikipedia to assess evilness Capture

New York Rangers James L. Dolan The Madison Square Garden Company, New York Rangers Hockey Club 1997

Evilness of primary industry

From what I can tell, he mostly runs the Madison Square Garden Company and I think works or has worked for Cablevision, which I think does something related to cable and vision.

Philanthropic activities

Dolan has mostly collaborated with Cablevision’s philanthropic efforts to fight cancer and support first responders. I don’t know if he’s got any personal skin in the game or what his overall wealth is.

Pretty damned evil Capture Capture

Ottawa Senators Eugene Melnyk Capital Sports Properties; Ottawa Senators Hockey Club Limited Partnership 2003

Evilness of primary industry

Drugs. Horses. Horses on drugs.

Philanthropic activities

You know what? Melnyk doesn’t fare badly by my airtight Evil Meter. His wealth is reported at $1.21 billion, though we know he has significant debt. Even if he didn’t, that’s paltry compared to the size of the fortunes on this list. And his philanthropic activities are pretty diverse, if not comprising a massive proportion of his fortune. He’s donated at least $8.8 million of his personal wealth to various health care and elderly care initiatives, but he seems to be very involved in a number of philanthropic organizations, including, of course, the Sens Foundation. Check out the philanthropy section on his Wikipedia. It’s longer than most. Is docked points for being an absolute prick.

Pretty damned evil Capture Capture

Philadelphia Flyers Brian L. Roberts Comcast Spectacor; Philadelphia Flyers, LP 1996

Evilness of primary industry

CEO of Comcast

Philanthropic activities

From what I can tell, Roberts has won a bunch of awards for being a decent guy and progressive CEO but I don’t see any information about donations of personal wealth. He’s donated more money to Democrats than Republicans, for whatever that’s worth.

Pretty damned evil Capture Capture

Pittsburgh Penguins Ronald Burkle and Mario Lemieux Lemieux Group LP 1999

Evilness of primary industry

Burkle is “co-founder and managing partner of The Yucaipa Companies, LLC, a private equity and venture capital firm that specializes in underperforming U.S. companies in the distribution, logistics, food, retail, consumer and light industrial sector.”

Mario Lemieux is Mario Lemieux.

Philanthropic activities

Burkle’s philanthropic activities are extensive. His Ronald W. Burkle Foundation’s mission is to “positively influence people around the world and their communities” by supporting programs that “strengthen international understanding, foster worker’s rights, empower underserved communities, nurture the arts and architecture, engage children in learning and advance scientific research.” No idea what its endowment is. He’s worth about $2 billion. Lemieux works with various charitable causes related to cancer research.

Only a little bit evil Capture

San Jose Sharks Hasso Plattner Sharks Sports and Entertainment; San Jose Sports & Entertainment Enterprises; San Jose Sharks, LLC 2002

Evilness of primary industry

Co-founder of SAP SE software.

Philanthropic activities

Plattner has donated tens of millions to AIDS research and also “contributed more than €20 million which enabled reconstruction of the historic exterior of the Stadtschloss (in Potsdam), which had damaged during World War II and demolished in 1959. At the time, it the largest donation ever gifted in Germany by a single individual.” Plattner is worth $13.1 billion.

Only a little bit evil Capture

St. Louis Blues Tom Stillman SLB Acquisition Holdings LLC; St. Louis Blues Hockey Club, L.P. 2012

Tim Stillman doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. I think he runs a beer distributor.

Insufficient information on Wikipedia to assess evilness Capture

Tampa Bay Lightning Jeffrey Vinik Lightning Hockey LP 2010

Evilness of primary industry

He ran a hedge fund.

Philanthropic activities

Vinik has given at least $13 million. I don’t know what he’s worth, but in 2017 he didn’t even make a list of the top 35 billionaires in Florida, although, granted, Florida is where shitty billionaires tend to congregate.

Only a little bit evil Capture

Toronto Maple Leafs Larry Tanenbaum Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Ltd.; Kilmer Sports, Inc. 1996

Evilness of primary industry

Like Dolan in New York, Tanenbaum basically runs the media empire that is his sports holdings.

Philanthropic activities

He received the Order of Canada for his philanthropic work, but I don’t have personal amounts. He’s said to be worth about $1 billion.

Only a little bit evil Capture

Vancouver Canucks Francesco Aquilini Canucks Sports & Entertainment 2004

Evilness of primary industry

Owns an investment firm and real estate.

Philanthropic activities

He’s apparently worth about $2 billion, and has given extensively to hospitals and wildlife preservation charities and efforts, but I don’t see amounts.

Only a little bit evil Capture

Vegas Golden Knights Bill Foley Black Knight Sports & Entertainment, Hockey Vision Las Vegas 2016

Evilness of primary industry

Financial services lawyer.

Philanthropic activities

Worth and contributions unknown.

Insufficient information on Wikipedia to assess evilness Capture

Washington Capitals Ted Leonsis Mounumental Sports and Entertainment 1999

Evilness of primary industry

Financial services lawyer.

Philanthropic activities

He’s worth about $1 billion and runs the Leonsis Foundation, the endowment of which I don’t know, but it’s given to more than 400 charities.

Only a little bit evil Capture

Winnipeg Jets Mark Chipman True North Sports & Entertainment, Ltd. 2011

Evilness of primary industry

He was a lawyer and now seems dedicated to running the Jets.

Philanthropic activities

He’s apparently worth about $500 million and there’s no reported philanthropy.

Insufficient information on Wikipedia to assess evilness

WHAT ABOUT GUY LALIBERTE?

The potential new owner of the Ottawa Senators is worth about $1.4 billion, which isn’t really that much more wiggle room than Melnyk, but that’s for a future article. He apparently doesn’t have much of a philanthropic interest and, worst, he’s one of those “space tourists” – a guy who spent a fortune so he can have a fleeting experience travelling to the International Space Station rather than change people’s lives through modest contributions to health and education. Not very promising. I actually rate him worse than Eugene Melnyk. Laliberte seems like a much wackier billionaire without much more money than peak Melnyk. Be careful what you wish for.

Mostly evil Capture Capture Capture

Conclusions:

Across the board, philanthropic activities pale in comparison to overall wealth. You have to be a multi-billionaire to play in this club, but philanthropic activities are usually in the tens of millions at best. That’s not nothing, and I understand personal wealth doesn’t necessarily mean liquid cash. But we do see, in some cases, people worth multiple billions of dollars only finding time to gift a percentage point of a percentage point of their wealth to worthy causes.

The California-based teams feature the most philanthropically-minded owners. Los Angeles’ ownership group has given hundreds of millions of dollars. Anaheim and San Jose’s owners have both given tens of millions. Also, none of them seem to be involved in something overly evil as a side hustle. California is a decent place to start.

Pittsburgh’s Burkle and Lemieux might also be a serviceable choice, though I know it’s hard for Sens fans to imagine themselves rooting for the Pens. Vinik in Tampa also seems like he wouldn’t preclude fandom. I’d also give Philly an honorable mention because of all of those Good Guy CEO Awards. If you require a Canadian team, Montreal and Vancouver seem like safe bets. And, as much as it hurts to say it, Toronto would be a perfectly reasonable team to root for.

For my money though, I’m thinking Detroit. I mean, the Rosa Parks thing alone, on a list of prominent Republicans, is probably enough to seal it for me. But not only does the Ilitch Family have an extensive philanthropic history, they also sell pizza. Pizza! Most of the other owners here you have to squint and look at sideways to think of as harmless. Pizza is about as harmless as it gets, at least on this list. Pizza might be the only thing on which we can all agree in these polarized and polarizing times. Also, Sens fans don’t have much of a rivalry with Detroit, Alfie played there, and they selected Zadina (which Ottawa should have). They’re like an alternate universe Sens who did the things we wanted them to. They also suck and have some Bobby Ryan contracts of their own. Detroit seems like a natural fit.

For that reason, I’m making my 1B team the Detroit Red Wings. Let’s go, you stupid Wings!

NOTE: I received the following very interesting information from a Detroit-based writer for the Detroit Metro Times that I encourage you to consider:

I respectfully disagree with your assessment of Mike Ilitch. Over the course of a decade or so, he quietly bought up large pieces Detroit’s Cass Corridor neighborhood, forced out any tenants, and left the buildings to rot so he could get hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to “redevelop” it with a new “arena district.” (Some of that money should have gone to Detroit’s super poor school district). Some called it “dereliction by design.” But even worse is that he didn’t follow through on most of what he promised, and the neighborhood is a bunch of boarded up buildings that he owns surrounding Little Caesars Arena. There’s no “district.” That was a scam to get more taxpayer money. He also destroyed a bunch of historic buildings and built parking lots in their place. So we gave this guy hundreds of millions of dollars and we got parking lots that he profits off of and vacant buildings. The Ilitch parking lot desert is a thing we have here, and there’s a lot more I don’t have the time to detail. The guy is a villain, and public opinion is turning against him. I wrote a story on the topic here: https://www.metrotimes.com/news-hits/archives/2017/09/12/how-the-ilitches-used-dereliction-by-design-to-get-their-new-detroit-arena You can also check out a FB page that popped up this year called “Terrible Ilitches” that tracks their misdeeds. https://www.facebook.com/TERRIBLEILITCHES/

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3 thoughts on “Which NHL Owners Are the Least Evil?

  1. Pingback: PHT Morning Skate: How much, how long for Wilson? What if Panarin pulls a Tavares? – ProHockeyTalk

  2. Pingback: How much, how long for Wilson?; What if Panarin pulls a Tavares? | Sportsnewsplex

  3. Pretty much can only cheer for Ottawa, Arizona or Chicago at this point, b/c Rundblad played in those areas. Or wherever Karlsson ends up, really.
    Just not cheering for anyone that has run a hedge fund, telecom or anything like that.

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