Depending on who you root for, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs can be either a hero or a villain. But everyone in hockey can agree that he has been one of – if not the – most powerful people in the sport for a long time. With the news that the Hall of Famer has transferred ownership of the Bruins to his six children, that power dynamic becomes very different and will dramatically alter politics behind the scenes in the NHL.
Jacobs’ successor will be son Charlie, who has effectively been running the Bruins for the past five years already. Charlie is very smart and has been groomed for the job over a long period of time. When it comes to the operation of the Bruins and the Delaware North concession company (which Jeremy Jacobs built into an empire over his business career), everything will be seamless. But the same cannot be said for NHL politicking.
For those in the know, Jeremy Jacobs has essentially been commissioner Gary Bettman’s boss. He is chairman of the board of governors and had tremendous sway over the league’s other owners. While it is expected that the Bruins will maintain a seat on the 10-member executive committee, don’t expect Charlie to receive the same fealty as his father. As we theorized in the 2019 edition of The Hockey News’ Money and Power special issue, Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold is the likely choice as the next chairman of the board. Leipold has the respect of old-guard owners and he actually goes to his team’s games (Calgary’s Murray Edwards is another powerful owner, but he lives in London, England, for example). Leipold has been added to several important NHL committees in the past few years, a sign that perhaps he was being groomed to succeed Jeremy Jacobs when the time came. The next Board of Governors meeting could be at All-Star Weekend in St. Louis, unless the NHL decides to call an earlier gathering.
Another group that will be very interested in Jacobs’ abdication are the players. In terms of lockouts, Jacobs was the leader of the hawks among NHL owners, always willing to take a tough stance against the union. Given that the NHL has already opted not to re-open the current collective bargaining agreement early, the labor landscape looks a lot more peaceful both now and for the future than it has in recent years under the Bettman/Jacobs reign. Jacobs has always been seen as the face of the opposition by the players and the NHLPA and it’s hard to see Charlie inspiring the same vitriol (which is undoubtedly a positive for hockey fans everywhere).
On the ice, nothing will change for the Bruins. Jacobs has allowed president Cam Neely and GM Don Sweeney to do their jobs and they have rewarded him with a well-built team that went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final this past season. Boston remains one of the best squads in the NHL heading into the 2019-20 campaign and Charlie seems smart enough to recognize that with the right people in place, there’s no need for meddling from above.
While it might not be the sexiest topic of the day, the Jacobs transfer news does have far-reaching ramifications for the NHL behind the scenes. The 79-year-old business magnate made a huge impact on the sport during his most influential years and it will be very interesting to see how that power vacuum and the Board of Governors’ dynamic gets filled in his absence.