That Time the NHL Got Conned

This week’s 30 for 30 is focusing on Big Shot, which chronicles the National Hockey League team the New York Islander and a man that goes by the name John Spano. This documentary is especially interesting because it highlights my beloved hockey, but also it’s mind boggling that something like the events chronicled in the film actually happened.

So really quick recap, John Spano was a guy that wanted to own a team, specifically an NHL team. So he set out to try and buy the Dallas Stars, but that deal went through. Then he set his sights on the Florida Panthers, but again that deal fell through. Then NHL Commissioner Gary Bettmen told Spano that the New York Islanders were for sale and that Spano would be a great buyer for the team.

So Spano put his plan in motion to buy the team, the only problem was that he didn’t have the 17 million dollars of his personal money to buy a team. But he was able to con the NHL into allowing him to sign for the team and he became an owner without having to shell out millions of dollars. Eventually it all caught up to him (it couldn’t last forever) and he lost the team.

I had two reactions watching this documentary: 1. I’m so impressed that he was able to actually pull the whole thing off for so long and 2. HOW THE HELL DID THE NHL NOT DO ITS HOMEWORK ON THIS GUY???

I apologize for all the all caps, but seriously how did he get away with it. The guys involved with the Dallas Stars failed deal even remarked on how they were surprised that the NHL didn’t reach out to them and ask why the deal fell through. If you were selling a multi-million dollar item to one man wouldn’t you do your homework? Wouldn’t you turn over every stone and rock to make sure that the buyer was the real deal?

I understand that it was during a time when the internet wasn’t a thing, but really you couldn’t pick up a phone and call some people who had tried to make a deal with him to see if he was real? Couldn’t you have hopped on a plane and do the dirty work to find out? I just don’t understand how this epic blunder could’ve happened, it just makes the NHL look really stupid that they couldn’t do some simple research to find out that John Spano didn’t have the money needed to play with the big dogs.

But seriously though kudos to John Spano for pulling off the biggest con. He was able to make the NHL and hell even Jerry Jones believe that he did in fact have enough money to buy a professional team. It takes a special brand of person to be able to fool a major professional sports organization enough to let him sign a piece of paper and take ownership of a team WITHOUT HAVING TO PUT DOWN EVEN A DIME.

It raises the question as to why Bettman is still the commish after this whole snafu happened. One would think that after letting a fraud take ownership of a team without paying the whole organization would be shaken up…..but we’ll save my feelings on Gary Bettman for another post.

For a short time John Spano got the best of the NHL and was able to call himself the owner of the New York Islander and that right there is one hell of an accomplishment. John Spano might be one of my weird heroes because I would love to own an NHL team without having to pay a dime.

I wonder who will play John Spano when Hollywood makes the movie……

 

 

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