Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New Lightning owner Koules must prove he's a Hockey Guy

The NHL Board of Governors on Wednesday approved the purchase of the Lightning by a group led by Oren Koules.


The NHL Board of Governors on Wednesday approved the purchase of the Lightning by a group led by Oren Koules.

For now, he is Oren Koules, Hollywood Guy.

In the world of hockey, it is not necessarily a compliment.

Whenever a new owner prepares to walk into an arena, there are always question marks waiting. In the case of Koules, there is also a lingering, possibly annoying perception. Yes, there are things for him to prove. Yes, there are things for him to disprove.

The purchase is all but done now. Koules has captured Lightning in a bottle (or, if you prefer, he has balanced it upon a Saw). True, the check still has to clear, which isn't exactly a small thing, but make no mistake about what Wednesday's unanimous approval by the NHL Board of Governors meant. From this point on, hockey in Tampa Bay is a Koules production.

Poor Koules. It is going to take some time before the guy can get away from the movie references, isn't it?

It doesn't matter how many buses he rode in junior hockey or how many miles or how many times he was poked in the face with a stick. From the time he became interested in owning a piece of the Lightning, he was the Hollywood Guy, the same as Bill Davidson was the Pistons Guy and Art Williams was the Insurance Guy and Takashi Okubo was, well, the Invisible Guy.

Let's face it. If you are on your way to a movie premiere, there is nothing wrong with being a Tinseltown player. Who doesn't want to do lunch with the famous? Who doesn't want to pose with the powerful? Deep down, don't we all think we would look positively splendid in the right sunglasses and the right sports car?

Around here, where the object is to go deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs, there have been those who would dismiss, even deride, Koules because of his background in movies. After all, Hollywood is also known as a slick, shallow city. Isn't it the place where glitz outweighs grit and style matters more than substance? Isn't it a place for posers and pretenders and broken dreams?

Even for a movie producer, such a label can be a galling thing because it can overshadow a lifetime's worth of love for a sport. Besides, there is a more noble nickname to be earned.

Eventually, he will be judged as Oren Koules, Hockey Guy.

Let's face it. The movie stuff is interesting, but when is the last time you saw someone wearing a Jigsaw jersey? Or a Two and a Half Men cap?

Around here, what people think about Koules is going to be based on his acumen as a hockey owner.

So how does a man make the transition from Hollywood Guy to Hockey Guy? How does a new owner begin to prove himself?

In Tampa Bay, we have seen enough bad owners come and (thankfully) go to know that it doesn't matter what an owner says in his opening news conference. It's what he does over time. That said, the rest of the summer should provide some early clues as far as what kind of owner Koules will be.

First, there is the matter of a new coach to replace the fired John Tortorella. Okay, okay. By now, everyone knows it's going to be Barry Melrose. But once Melrose is announced, it will be up to Koules to convince everyone that his reasoning is solid. Koules and, of course, the standings. (The first round of the playoffs would make Koules look smart for hiring Melrose, the second round or deeper would make him look like a visionary.)

After that, the sooner Koules can get Vinny Lecavalier's name on a contract, the better. Put it this way: If Lecavalier is going to trust Koules with his career, that's going to be good enough for a lot of season-ticket holders.

Free agency, too, is going to be important for Koules. It isn't just that the Lightning needs the help (although it does). Anytime a new owner buys a team, fans always watch closely to see if he has any money left to spend. That said, Wednesday's trade for the rights to Vinny Prospal was a nice start. You would have to think Koules knew what kind of contract Prospal wanted before making such a trade, wouldn't you?

Along the way, Koules has to sell Koules, too. He has to restore a team's direction. He has to rebuild a minor-league system. He has to put a shattered Stanley Cup team back together.

Over time, Koules will have to prove he has the right amount of passion and the right amount of perspective. He will have to show he is wealthy enough to spend and wise enough to know where. He will have to be hungry enough, driven enough, smart enough. It would help if he were close to the cap. Also, close to the Cup.

After all, that's all Lightning fans have ever wanted in an owner.

Around here, the only thing they want to be produced is a winner.

New Lightning owner Koules must prove he's a Hockey Guy 06/18/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 19, 2008 6:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays let early lead get away again in loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As pleased as the Rays were to win consecutive series against the contending Red Sox, Indians and Yankees and to get briefly back over .500, there was a lot of talk in the clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels that it was time to do better.

    Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) high fives designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) as he rounds third on his lead off home run in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Monday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    OF/DH Corey Dickerson missed out on a good birthday gift when AL player of the week honors went instead to Detroit's J.D. Martinez. Dickerson hit .385 with five homers, nine RBIs and nine runs; Martinez went .389-4-9-7 and got the nod.

  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb learning to work with what he has



    If this were 2012 or 2013, even 2014, RHP Alex Cobb would have problems. He would find himself working with only two of his three pitches, with the missing pitch being his trusty changeup.

    Alex Cobb, working mainly with his fastball and curveball, is 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA over his past five starts. The Rays right-hander tries to continue his strong stretch tonight against the Angels.
  4. Rays vs. Angels, 7:10 p.m. Tuesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Angels

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  5. Fennelly: This season's Chris Archer is a pleasure to watch

    The Heater


    At this time last season, through 10 starts, Rays pitcher Chris Archer was 3-5 on his way to 9-19.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, May 21, 2017.