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Today’s guest columnist is Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, an investor in the National Lacrosse League’s Las Vegas franchise along with Joe Tsai, PGA golfer Dustin Johnson and Nets coach Steve Nash. This article concludes Sportico’s five-day series taking a look inside Tsai’s and BSE Global’s sports ventures.
Ever since I was little I have loved all sports, two of which are pretty well-documented—the game of hockey and the game of baseball. I played a lot of both growing up in Canada and probably dreamed of being the shortstop for the New York Yankees as often as I imagined battling the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup Finals. But there was another sport that I loved and enjoyed playing: lacrosse, and box-lacrosse in particular.
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So when my longtime agent at WME Sports, Ira Stahlberger, called me a few years ago and told me he had met some incredible people who were doing some incredible things in the sport of lacrosse, I was all ears. The people were Joe Tsai, Ollie Weisberg, Richard Tao, Steve Govett and the team at J Tsai Sports; and Nick Sakiewicz and Jessica Berman at the National Lacrosse League. This was a team of smart, dedicated and, most of all, genuine people who had a passion for the game—something that is paramount to me. They had a deep desire to win, but also a desire to always win with class and dignity.
I remember our very first Zoom call in the early days of the pandemic. Joe was in Hong Kong, and it must have been 3 a.m. his time. I was so impressed with his vision for the NLL, for lacrosse in Las Vegas—and the fact that he was wide awake! I knew from that very first video conference that I wanted to be in business with Joe and his team, if he wanted to be in business with me and my team.
And when I found out Steve Nash was coming on board it only added to my enthusiasm. I remember that day quite well, too. Janet and I happened to be in Florida, visiting our daughter Paulina and our grandsons (future lacrosse players, I’m sure), when I heard Steve was in. Then Dustin and I started talking—he immediately loved the idea and told me how much he was a fan of the game, too. Dustin was in, if Joe would agree, and of course Joe didn’t waste a minute saying yes.
From there things moved pretty quickly, and before I knew it we were in Las Vegas this past June throwing a lacrosse ball around with Joe backstage—he’s a very good stick—and announcing Team 15 in 2023. Because of the pandemic, Joe and I never met in person until our Launch Day in Las Vegas; it’s amazing when you think of it. We have brought on a terrific leader in Mark Fine from BSE Global, and he will no doubt build a world-class team around him.
I’m excited to be in the business of this amazing sport, but I’m equally excited to be in business with Joe. I have always prided myself on working with people I would like to have dinner with, but also sit next to in a locker room or a board room—and Joe is 100% that type of person.
I can’t wait to get started!
Gretzky, who retired as a player in 1999, has been an active entrepreneur and investor, with holdings in sports franchises, sporting goods, restaurants and a winery and distillery. He joins Turner Sports this fall as the network’s lead NHL analyst.
Inside BSE Global: A Sportico Series
Monday: How Joe Tsai and His ‘Rag Tag Team’ Are Building a Sports Empire
Tuesday: Sports Industry Must Bridge Gap to Tap Talents of Military Vets
Wednesday: New York Liberty’s First 25 Years Light the Way for Women’s Sports
Thursday: Nets Extending Long Rebound With Focus on Youth and Tech
Friday: Wayne Gretzky: Why I’m Investing in Lacrosse