“There are plenty of owners in sports who have various business interests together outside of their teams,” Bettman told The Canadian Press. “We scrutinize all transactions and obviously if there are any transactions between the Stars and Canadiens they will have to be thoroughly scrutinized to make sure that we don’t think there are any issues.
“We don’t see this as a problem.”
Liverpool announced Tuesday that chairman David Moores has agreed to sell his 51 per cent stake in the record 18-time English champions to Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett Jr. and Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks.
Bettman said Liverpool’s rabid and devoted fans should not fret over the Americans taking control of their prized soccer club.
“If you’re a fan of the Liverpool franchise, you should be feeling pretty good about this acquisition because both Tom and George have done a great job with all of the sports organizations they’ve been in and in the various businesses they’ve been in,” said Bettman.
The NHL commissioner points to Gillett’s similar test in Montreal, where passionate Habs fans at first were worried about an American buying their team but then realized they had nothing to fear.
“Being an American owning the Montreal Canadiens and having been so well-received by the fans in Montreal is a testament to how he runs a franchise,” said Bettman.
“In Tom Hicks’ case, the stability that he has brought to the Dallas Stars and the way he has helped to grow dramatically hockey in Texas is a testament the strength both of these guys have when it comes to running sports franchises.”
It’s the latest transaction bringing the soccer and hockey worlds together. The parent ownership group of the Los Angeles Kings, Anschutz Entertainment Group, last month announced the blockbuster acquisition of English star David Beckham from Spanish giant Real Madrid for its MLS club the Los Angeles Galaxy.
“It just indicates what a shrinking world this is,” Bettman said. “And the opportunities, if you’re adaptable in a changing world, are great.”
With Hicks also the owner of baseball’s Texas Rangers and Gillett owning and operating ski areas in Colorado, one wonders if they’re being stretched a little thin. But Bettman isn’t concerned the two owners will leave the NHL family.
“No. Actually to the contrary,” said Bettman. “I think this ensures that they remain active in sports. They’re both very passionate about their hockey teams. … These are both very successful businessmen who over the course of their careers have been in multiple businesses. If anything they view this as an opportunity to work together and own and grow a storied franchise.”