Over the last several years, Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek has been trying to keep the team from bankruptcy. He bought out his former co-owners and refinanced his team’s debt. Still, payments never came in on time. Speculation is roaming that the team and Vanderbeek are now around $200 million in debt.
Rumors surfaced that the NHL was getting ready to take temporary control of the money-strapped franchise — the way they had with the Phoenix Coyotes. However, Commissioner Gary Bettman shot down any such rumors, leaving the Devils’ future in suspended limbo.
Almost simultaneously, new rumors emerged that billionaire Josh Harris, current owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, was ready and willing to buy the team. If Harris buys the team, or at least makes himself a co-owner of the team, he will most certainly get the team out of their financial troubles.
The thought of a man from the Philadelphia area owning the Devils will worry a large part of the Devils fan base, not surprising considering the Devils and Flyers rivalry is one of the most intense in the NHL, but if the Devils fans can look beyond his ties to Philadelphia, they will see how much this will benefit the Devils in the future.
Perhaps the two most important things that will come about if Harris purchases the Devils are, as stated before, that the team will be out of debt and will be ready and willing to spend money to put a consistent contender on the ice. The team will also stay in New Jersey for the foreseeable future.
One other thing that worries Devils fans is the performance of the Sixers under Harris’s tenure. Since purchasing the team in July of 2011, Philadelphia has not managed to win more than 35 games in a regular season and missed the playoffs this last season.
However, the blame most definitely falls on the general manager and coaching staff. Comparing the accomplishments of Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie to those of Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello isn’t even fair. Regardless of who owns the Devils, Lamoriello puts a consistent contender on the ice season in and season out. This will not change if Harris purchases the Devils.
Compared to how long it took him to buy the Sixers, the negotiations with Vanderbeek are speeding along and a deal seems imminent in the near future, which is finally some great news for the Devils and their fans who haven’t had much to celebrate this summer.