(UPDATE April 28, 10 a.m. -- Did the business journal whiff on the scoop? Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek today denied and clarified the report to Fire & Ice: "Lou is not being relieved of his duties and Lou and I are both working together on this.")
As the New Jersey Devils prepare to face the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 on Tuesday night, a potentially big story about the team's future breaks: Devils President/GM Lou Lamoriello may lose his business responsibilities with the franchise, concentrating only on hockey operations, according to a report in Street & Smyth's Sports Business Journal.
According to the story, Devils chairman Jeff Vanderbeek and the Devils hired the executive search firm James & Co. to fill the position. The team is looking for someone with extensive experience managing a sports franchise's business operations.
The story went on to say that most NHL teams have separate business and hockey operations and have them managed by two different executives. New Jersey, the Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild are among those that don't separate the jobs. Lamoriello joined the Devils in 1987 as president and handled business operations, but soon became very active in running the hockey team on-ice.
The president of Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, an executive search service for franchises, told the Ledger that the Prudential Center and other assets demand "a person in there whose only focus is on driving revenue."
The entirety of the Devils' success under Lamoriello has come at the cost of self-promotion; for years, fans have complained about marketing that has spanned the gap between non-existent and ham-fisted. It's not that Lamoriello couldn't sell the product; it's that his focus was on the ice. Players simply weren't put before the team in a marketing concept, and outreach into a crowded entertainment market wasn't consistent or emphatic; as a result, generations of fans in Jersey weren't converted at a time when the team was winning Cups.
The attendance struggles, the lack of star power, the anonymity in the New York media market ... it all tracks back to Lamoriello in some way. Yet at the same time, so does unparalleled success for the franchise, which often begged the question if lack of marketing contributed to that success.
If the report is accurate, there may be some interesting tugs of war between the man who built the Devils and the person hired to sell them. Can't wait for when Zach Parise is doing a shoot for Tiger Beat on the day Lamoriello wanted him to work on his penalty killing outlet passes.
And if a new era in marketing will arrive for the franchise, is there a chance Lamoriello will depart?