By now we can say with great confidence the NHL isn’t coming to Hamilton. Sorry.
Even so, Hamilton may soon be coming to the NHL.
We don’t know for sure what’s going on behind the scenes at the league offices, let’s get that out there right up front. The NHL seems to leak less than CSIS.
That said, the hockey world is filled with speculation these days that Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer is the front-runner to become the new owner of the Ottawa Senators any day now. The league’s draft will be held in five weeks and you’d expect it would want the new owner in place by then to have some say over who’s making key decisions for the franchise.
And who could be making those decisions?
A familiar name has popped up as a possible general manager for an Andlauer Ottawa operation. Namely, former Bulldogs president and GM Steve Staios.
“If Michael Andlauer is the successful bidder to purchase the Ottawa Senators, formerly the owner of the Hamilton Bulldogs where he found a lot of success with Staios, there will be a real pull to bring Staios with him as the next GM of the Senators,” longtime NHL reporter Frank Seravalli said on a podcast in Edmonton the other day?
Why was he speaking in Edmonton?
Because other reports have Staios pegged as possible GM of the Oilers where he’s currently a special adviser. That could end up being where he stays in a bigger role.
However, he and Andlauer are unquestionably close. The latter hired the former to run the Bulldogs in 2015. In three seasons, they were Ontario Hockey League champions. Four years later, in 2022, they won again.
It makes all kinds of sense that if the Bulldogs owner gets his hands on the Senators he might want the guy who built him a pair of championships to join him in the nation’s capital and see if he can replicate that success in the big league.
But this would all ride on Andlauer landing the team. How do we know he’s the favourite? Again, we don’t. Not really.
Andlauer declined to comment until the process is finished, while Staios could not be reached on Wednesday.
Much of the prognostication comes from the fact that has deep pockets (his Andlauer Healthcare Group has a $2-billion market cap) and is an individual rather than a group which makes things a little cleaner.
Plus — and don’t underestimate this — as a part-owner of the Montreal Canadiens, he’s a known-quantity and it’s often been said that he’s liked and respected by others in the league. This is a big deal as you’ll recall from the whole Jim Balsillie saga of a few years ago.
“The criteria set forth in the (NHL) constitution and bylaws relates to financial wherewithal, character, integrity and the view whether or not the other owners would deem you a good partner,” commissioner Gary Bettman said back in 2009 when Balsillie was trying to buy the Phoenix Coyotes and move them here.
That was an incredibly contentious situation. The league clearly wants people in its club in whom it has confidence and who it feels won’t rock the boat.
There are four people or groups still in the mix. One of them is a consortium that includes hip hop artist Snoop Dogg, Olympian Donovan Bailey, comedian Russell Peters, a First Nations group, members of the TV show Dragons’ Den and others. Another has pop star The Weeknd as a partner.
The financial engine behind each of them is a billionaire. Which is good since the expected selling price will apparently be around $1 billion.
This is a staggering number when you recall the expansion fee that got the Senators to Ottawa (when many say they should’ve been here in Hamilton) was $50 million. And that the expansion fee for the Seattle Kraken three years ago was just — just — $650 million.
Andlauer can seemingly afford it. Especially if he fronts a group of minority investors that adds even more fiscal heft. He fits the criteria Bettman laid out a few years ago. He’s been successful in the game. Hence the belief he’s in a good spot.
Will he ultimately get it? Who knows? The hot stove is a fun place to hang out but the stories told there don’t always turn out to be true. Though sometimes they’re bang on.
Either way, what happens over the next few days in Ottawa may be as close as Hamilton gets to a team.
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