Just when things started to finally look up for the Devils, they get hit by mother nature (eighth winter storm in the past month and a half), and now a threat from Brick City Hockey LLC could force the sale of the entire team.
New Jersey Devils Chairman/Managing Partner Jeff Vanderbeek released the following announcement on Tuesday.
“As Managing Member of the New Jersey Devils, it is not my desire to sell the team. My partner, Brick City, and I have different visions for the franchise. While Brick City has a right, under our partnership agreement, to explore a sale and Moag and Co. has been retained to assist in these efforts, I anticipate maintaining a controlling interest.”
Brick City Hockey LLC’s President Mike Gilfillan released his own statement as well:
“Brick City has exercised its contractual rights under its partnership agreement with Jeff Vanderbeek to cause a sale of the entire team and arena rights, subject to certain terms and conditions. We are at the beginning stage of this process and Moag and Company has been retained to assist in those efforts.
“Our goal was to use professional sports as a catalyst for economic development in Newark by constructing a state of the art arena for the teams as well as for concerts and family shows.
“Brick City feels we have accomplished that objective with our partner Jeff Vanderbeek. The arena and the teams playing here have also attracted more people to come back to the city in an ongoing effort to restore pride, sports, arts, culture and business to this beautiful city.”
While forcing the sale of the team raises a red flag for Devils fans, the story doesn’t end there. The City of Newark has come into the picture as well.
Things don’t look so hot there either.
The City of Newark is currently in litigation with the Devils over back rent as well as an issue over revenue sharing. Currently, the City of Newark is seeking $3.5 million in back rent from the Devils. The team has been withholding rent over various issues with the facility (including no heat, faulty construction of the building, etc.).
But the recession has also given the City of Newark major financial issues which makes legilators seriously consider the sale of Prudential Center. Until the back rent issue is resolved, they cannot sell the building in order to recover their costs they put into the building of the facility (they believe that a sale might bring in roughly $200 million for Newark for the $375 million facility).
The City of Newark is currently $40 million in the hole and expected to pay out $125 million to bondholders in the next few months. They have already sold multiple government buildings to cut their deficit. The sale of Prudential Center looks more and more attractive to political leaders every single day.
The four-year old facility has been turning a large profit, ranking 24th worldwide in ticket sales — 11th in the US — beating out their previous home The Izod Center (formerly Continental Airlines Arena), according to Pollstar. Venues Today has placed them in 13th place. The figures from Pollstar do not include 75 games played by the New Jersey Devils, New Jersey Nets and Seton Hall. Pollstar also does not include certain events like wrestling and various fighting matches.
Newark’s Prudential Center stands to make a profit for any owner. That is, if they’re willing to hold onto the investment. The City of Newark is looking to recuperate their costs as quickly as possible to fix their major debt issues, rather than letting the investment grow. Thousands of city employees, including firefighters and police officers, have been laid off due to the recession. Newark has become desperate.
The Devils face threats of being completely sold outright, as well as having their arena sold out from underneath them by the Newark Housing Authority. The back rent is the least of Newark’s financial problems.
Throw in the dwindling ticket sales for Devils games due to the horrendous winter they have had, it looks like they could use a fresh new start.
The summer of Kovalchuk was only the beginning of the bad luck the Devils were to face. It’s still ongoing, even though they are 7-1-1 in their last nine games. Just as they have finally turned things around, they are struck with news of Brick City possibly forcing the sale of the team.
Brick City’s involvement was solely to invest in a team that could help turn the City of Newark around. Apparently, the Devils and the new arena have done just that. Who knew that a recession could worsen the City of Newark’s conditions even further? If it wasn’t for the Devils and Prudential Center, things could have been much worse.
Both Vanderbeek and the owners from Brick City have been at odds for the last few years. The news of a possible sale has been leading to this moment for some time now.
New Jersey Devils vs. Ottawa Senators, 2-1
Only 7,218 fans made it out to Prudential Center on a night where an ice storm was expected to hit immediately following the game. The Devils offensive power from the blueline all the way to the frontlines barreled down upon Senators goalie Robin Lehner. The rookie faced 33 shots, and only allowed two goals.
Nick Palmieri was the first to best him just 35 seconds into the second period. But the Sens had a huge chance later in the period when Anton Volchenkov headed to the penalty box at 3:17, followed by Dainius Zubrus at 4:59. The two-man advantage finally gave Ottawa their first goal at 5:09 from Alex Kovalev.
Zubrus popped one up over Lehner’s shoulder at 14:17 in the final stanza to give the Devils their 2-1 victory.
Ottawa’s offensive power was lackluster as they only were able to generate 16 shots on goal. In the first two periods, the Devils dominated the puck possession battle as the Senators were only able to generate two shots in the first period, and four in the second.
This marked the Devils seventh win in nine games, but they are still 20 points away from the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. With 32 games left in the season, the Devils would need to win almost all of their games from here until the end of the year in order to weasel their way into that last and final spot in the East.