October 11, 2021
open defense of their Stanley Cup championship against the Blackhawks Wednesday night. The championship banner will be raised
to the rafters. The franchise deservedly will bask in the spotlights, and considerable credit should go to the Stan Kroenke
owership, which in Denver also controls the Nuggets, Rapids and Mammoth, plus Ball Arena itself. With a portfolio that
also includes the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams and Arsenal FC of the English Premier League, an argument can be made
that Kroenke is the best owner in North American professional sports. Or at least is the "best" of the four ownerships
that control both NHL and NBA franchises. Stan is Kroenke Sports and Entertainment’s chairman and CEO.
In Colorado, the Comcast / Altitude fiasco is an unfair definition of the Kroenke regime. He can't make
up with St. Louis. That breach is unmendable. Again, the amazing thing here is that there is a breach to mend.
That's what makes the ongoing cable wars so baffling and maddening. Why does Kroenke not only stand for
this, but seems to consider it some sort of line-in-the-sand, tongue-sticking-out competition?
Even on Tuesday, the KSE-owned Altitude trotted out the discredited and disingenuous rhetoric again.
I couldn't believe what I was reading. Three years into the mess, Altitude executives tried to renew the
ridiculous campaign that accuses Comcast of a petty "blackout" of Altitude.
insults fans and consumers, at least those intelligent enough to understand that the two sides haven't been able to reach
a carriage agreement. That's a business dispute over how much Comcast will pay Altitude, among the discussions over terms.
(Or to put it another way, the minimum Altitude will accept.) That's not a blackout and every time Altitude trots out that
argument, it's a wince-inducing affront. Think of what would happen if Comcast simply pirated the broadcasts and showed them.
Wait, you don't have a contract to do that! Lawsuits would be filed the next morning.
But this has turned into a prominent element of the definition of the Kroenke
ownership. One more time: That's not fair. But it also seems that Stan and the ownership doesn't give a damn about that.
Or this: During the Stanley Cup celebration at Civic Center Park on June 30, Joe Sakic saluted Stan Kroenke,
who was present for the ceremony but didn’t go to the podium to speak.
Kroenke for backing him and providing what the franchise needed to succeed.
going to exaggerate here in search of a contrived hot take.
The boos among the cheers were not widespread but were noticeable. It
definitely was a mixed reaction.
Wait … the Avalanche just had won the NHL championship
for the third time in their 27 years in Denver, and for the second time under the Kroenke umbrella, and the owner is booed?
Could you imagine that happening with Pat Bowlen? Of course, you couldn’t.
The fact of the matter is that the Kroenke ownership has been great for Colorado.
Let me emphasize that.
The Kroenke ownership, also including Stan’s son, Josh,
who is president of both the Avalanche and Nuggets, has been great for Colorado.
control of the Rams and Arsenal is of secondary concern here. That is, unless family competition is an added impetus for the
Broncos' Walton-Penner-Hobson-Rice-Hamilton ownership group in the coming months and years. Stan’s wife, Ann Walton
Kroenke, who for a time technically was owner of the Nuggets and Avalanche until well after the NFL rolled back cross-ownership
rules, and Rob Walton are cousins.
The reason for those scattered boos in late June was obvious.
They’re tied to the ongoing Comcast / Altitude fiasco that for three seasons has prevented the Avalanche
(and Nuggets) from being available on the dominant cable system in the Denver area.
not how to nurture a fan base that wants to watch a handful of the best players in the world, including Nikola Jokic, Nathan
MacKinnon and Cale Makar, and their teams.
The relatively universal availability of Avalanche
games in the playoffs — including via TNT and ABC — was great, but also was a reminder of what so many had missed
in the regular season.
I get it. We’re Comcast subscribers and we’re frustrated, too.
But the boos?
I would have hoped that the issues — ownership’s
role in the Avalanche’s NHL championship on the one hand; and the KSE / Altitude’s ongoing dispute with the cable
carrier on the other — could be separated for at least a day.
Stan Kroenke, a competitor
in all things, including business, wants to win.
Comcast’s motives are murky, including the
possibility that it wouldn’t mind it if independent regional sports networks are put out of business. The RSN role in
the marketplace has evolved and perhaps the model no longer is viable.
After three years
of receiving zero in rights fees from Comcast, KSE’s hard line in refusing to simply get the best offer possible from
the cable carrier and viewing it as a promotional loss leader is baffling. To me, that would make economic sense.
But KSE also deserves some credit
for keeping Altitude on the air and at least available to those able to get it via DirecTV and through other means.
Another settlement conference linked to the Altitude lawsuit against Comcast was scheduled for mid-July,
but scuttled. The next proceeding is set for November 2023.
Put all of that aside
for a moment.
Denver is one of four markets with dual NHL-NBA ownership.
The other three are the New York Rangers and Knicks; the Washington Capitals and Wizards; and the Toronto
Maple Leafs and Raptors. There are fine-print disclaimers for the official ownership structures, especially in Toronto, but
those are the realities about control of the franchises.
Considered as tandem operations,
the Kroenke-owned Avalanche and Nuggets are the best of the four.
Actually, you could
go farther and say that regardless of dual or separate ownerships, Denver has the best situation of all markets with both
NHL and NBA franchises. The Kroenkes deserve credit for that, too.
In the Avalanche’s
case, the ownership’s strength is recognizing what it doesn’t know, hiring personnel up and down the organizational
chart it trusts, and allowing them to do their jobs. Stan and Josh Kroenke, both with basketball playing backgrounds, are
more activist in NBA discussions.
In a hard-cap NHL, the payroll parameters are pretty
much set by the CBA, so it’s not a matter of giving financial carte blanche. I still remember once asking Josh Kroenke
at an availability for an Avalanche draft class what his philosophy was about NHL free agency. He pointed across the room
to Sakic and said: “My philosophy is whatever he says it is.”
Perhaps the euphoria
of this championship will accelerate a move toward construction of a new practice facility/rink for the Avalanche, whether
linked to a new Nuggets practice gym or otherwise. Family Sports Center in Centennial, a publicy-owned two-rink complex, is
considered shabby by NHL standards.
I would have hoped that the Kroenkes would have
been chagrined or even outraged by the unfair and ill-timed boos and be moved to address the cause.
But it’s business.
Stan Kroenke likes to win there, too.
The dual ownership details:
Owner: Kroenke Sports and Entertainment; Stan Kroenke, chairman
NHL: Colorado Avalanche
2021-22 regular season: 56-19-7
Playoffs: Defeated Tampa Bay in Stanley Cup Final, won NHL championship
Regular season: 48-34
to Golden State in first round
Square Garden Sports Corp.; James Dolan, executive chairman and CEO
NHL: New York Rangers
Regular season: 52-24-6
Playoffs: Lost to Tampa Bay in Eastern Conference
NBA: New York Knicks
Regular season: 37-45
Did not make playoffs
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment; Larry Tannenbaum, chairman
NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs
Regular season: 54-21-7
Playoffs: Lost to Tampa Bay in first round
NBA: Toronto Raptors
Regular season: 48-34
Playoffs: Lost to Philadelphia in first round
Owner: Monumental Sports and Entertainment; Ted Leonsis, founder, majority owner, chairman and CEO.
NHL: Washington Capitals
Regular season: 44-26-12
Playoffs: Lost to Florida in first round
NBA: Washington Wizards
Regular season: 35-47
Did not make playoffs
Kroenke wins there.