Lightning co-owner Len Barrie hasn't been heard from much lately. He was with the team on this month's road trip through Canada, shook hands, made small talk but declined to speak on the record to reporters.
So it was a pleasant surprise when Barrie returned a call the other day. Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper had just reported that the finances of his Bear Mountain Resort and Spa in Victoria, British Columbia, were under investigation by the Canada Revenue Agency, the equivalent of the Internal Revenue Service.
Barrie said he couldn't comment on that, though it was unclear whether the investigation was a standard business audit. But he did take issue with the story's characterization he is no longer an active owner. "We're the same partners as when we bought the team," Barrie said of himself and Oren Koules.
That is not completely accurate, of course. Barrie was put in a box, to an extent, in June when commissioner Gary Bettman decreed that Koules, as CEO and governor, and general manager Brian Lawton were responsible for the day-to-day running of the team and Barrie be consulted only on transactions of more than $2 million.
But Barrie contended that is splitting hairs. "Have I ever run the day-to-day part of the team?" he said. "I have my own core business. Oren is CEO, and Brian is the GM. If we make a move, we talk."
Still, Barrie lowered his profile in August when he abandoned his exclusive window to buy out Koules and basically handed his initiative to St. Louis real estate developer Anthony Sansone Jr.
Sansone has said he still is interested in buying a majority share of the team, and it is unclear how big a stake Barrie would have if that transaction came to fruition, though it is believed it would be small.
That would leave him in the same place he is now, not irrelevant but clearly in the background.