December 12, 2011
(Ed. Note: The headline says "men" not as a slight to women but as the frustrating reality of executive-level sports employment and gender in 2011.)
Sports Business Journal released its 50 Most Influential People in Sports Business list on Monday, and the NHL had an interesting influence on that list.
The League had its usual, somewhat limited, representation on the actual ranking: Commissioner Gary Bettman at No. 9; Los Angeles Kings governor (and Anschutz empire lieutenant) Tim Leiweke at No. 11; Boston Bruins owner and Board of Governors chair Jeremy Jacobs at No. 46; and NHLPA boss Donald Fehr at No. 47.
But the NHL also had an impact on several other notables on the list. NBCUniversal Holdings CEO Steve Burke, No. 1 overall, is leading the makeover of NBC Sports that includes the NHL as the centerpiece of its cable sports network. NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus, No. 16 overall, is in charge of re-branding VERSUS; Anheuser-Busch InBev (No. 33) and MillerCoors (No. 38) both were impacted by their rights deals with the NHL.
Here's the write-up in Bettman, who moved up two slots from the 2010 list:
Bettman had reason to smile in 2011, as the NHL earned just shy of $3 billion in revenue, posted its best TV ratings for the Stanley Cup playoffs, and closed a 10-year, $1.9 billion TV deal with NBC. The commissioner even strengthened his tenuous relationship with Canadian fans by allowing the struggling Atlanta Thrashers to move to Winnipeg. He must now address similar situations in Phoenix, Florida and New Jersey.
Meanwhile, here's Sports Business Journal on Jacobs, who was unranked last year:
After waiting 36 years, Jacobs finally saw his Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup this year. Jacobs bought the franchise in 1975, and has become one of the most influential owners in the NHL, sitting on the executive committee of the board of governors. As chairman and CEO of Delaware North, he also oversees one of the most important venue management and concessions firms in the industry.
Those gigs combined, you can understand how Jacobs belongs on the list … but ahead of Ed Snider, Philadelphia Flyers chairman and Comcast Spectacor media mogul? How often is Jeremy Jacobs accused of a grand conspiracy by Steve Yzerman? Plus, Snider's team is in the Winter Classic for the second time in three years, hosting it this season, and is featured on HBO's "24/7."
But the glaring oversight on this list: John Collins, COO of the NHL. From the Winter Classic to the NBC Sports deal to the current course of the NHL's digital media, Collins is the guy responsible for all of it. Sports Business Journal named the NHL the Sports League of the Year in 2011; from a business perspective, there aren't many more important figures in the NHL than Collins.