I am starting to wonder at this point if Robert Kraft needs to stage an intervention for Jeremy Jacobs.
Granted, I am not much of a football fan, but Lord knows I work with dozens of them. The few that enjoy both hockey and football gave me an odd look when I suggested this. I put the question to them. “All right, we all know I know jack squat about the Patriots. Didn’t Kraft tred to move the team and generally make life hell for Pats fans for a couple of years? If there was a lockout in the NFL, wouldn’t Kraft been one of those owners trying to stick it to the union?” The reactions were mixed. A few thought I had something, a few just assumed I was insane and in the mood to have a sports argument. “The fans started loving Kraft when the team started winning Super Bowls.” I continued, “When the Bruins hired Claude Julien and started to become a mainstay in the playoffs again, didn’t more people like Jacobs? Yes, they probably did. It’s human nature to back a winner.”
When the Boston Bruins organization brought home the 2011 Stanley Cup, Jacobs was one of the heroes of the hour. The club, from GM Chiarelli down to the groundskeepers at the Garden were thanking Jacobs in any interview done. When most of the Bruins were interviewed during the “Bruins’ summer of love”, the players usually had Jacobs as one of the first three people to thank for being where they are. Even when the Bruins got knocked out in the first round of last year’s playoffs, the fan base was behind the team’s owner.
Then the lockout began. Jeremy Jacobs shifted roles. He was not just the owner of the Boston Bruins, but the head of the board of Governors. He became the face of the owners for the lockout. He also became the unoffical poster child of ownership greed. He seemed to be the main voice of the NHL’s disasterous first proposal which was a direct slap in the face to the players. A few weeks ago, when the parties seemed on the verge of the deal, only to have three proposals put forth shot down in under an hour…one could feel that someone was pulling Bettman’s strings.
Now, where are we? NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly estimated the league has lost $720 million when November games were cancelled. Once we factor in the loss of the Winter Classic, it’s safe to say the NHL is down three quarters of a billion already. With all this talk about revenue, and the HRR share, how will the NHL and NHLPA figure out how to repair the damage caused by the lockout when it comes to adjusting the core economic language to a shortened season. While they’re at it, how are they going to salve the open emotional wounds of the fan base?
Mr. Kraft, if you or any members of your organization are reading this, please entertain the possibility of stopping by the Garden and ask to take Mr. Jacobs out to lunch. If you wouldn’t mind, could you please have an owner-to-owner talk with him about how long it took you to get back in the fans’ good graces and he might want to start thinking about that before he presides with Bettman over the end of the 2012-2013 season?