We was duped.
On January 3rd, amidst the second work stoppage in eight years, the New Jersey Devils released this press release on the team’s website. After years of rumored financial instability Jeff Vanderbeek, who owns the Devils and the Prudential Center, restructured the organization’s debt, and promised the days of uncertainty were over. Fans could rest assured that business would resume as usual.
Well, now Vanderbeek’s credibility is as bad as his credit.
According to multiple reports the Devils missed their first debt payment back in April and remain on the financial brink. Forbes magazine reveals an especially ominous portrayal of the situation in Newark. Ominous as in over $200 Million in debt.
Reactions range from the level-headed, such as new ownership via a bankruptcy sale, to the extreme, like the long deep-seated fear of this team being relocated to Canada. Seattle is rumored to be in the market for a team as well.
On his “Fire and Ice” Blog Tom Gullitti has painted a less drastic situation, reporting that Vanderbeek is looking for minority ownership to back the organization’s finances. The NHL has denied reports of a dire situation in New Jersey as well.
Whether it is serious or just a 21st century media storm, we’ll have to wait and see. One thing is for sure, and that is the financial security that was claimed back in January is farcical.
This will probably have repercussions in offseason hockey operations. The team has several key free agents, including franchise icon Patrik Elias, Marek Zidlicky, David Clarkson and Dainius Zubrus. It now seems realistic New Jersey will be able to retain all of them. Adding a scorer, something desperately needed, seems like a long shot now. After fleeing a season ago Zach Parise and his production was never replaced. Now fans have to worry if an already anemic offense will lack even more punch next season.
New Jersey missed the playoffs in 2013, the second such shortcoming in three years. Martin Brodeur is returning for what may be his last season. It’s tough to imagine what the Devils will be without their cornerstone in net.
With further uncertainty regarding ownership and Vanderbeek’s ability to pay the bills, the future is cloudy in New Jersey.