SUN Hockey Pool

A new 'role' model

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

Gee. That was almost boring.

After all the excitement and emotion of the hostile takeover of the Edmonton Oilers by Daryl Katz, listening to mostly monotone responses along with several grey answers to black-and-white questions may have been something of a letdown after the big buildup to the day when the man finally spoke.

On the other hand, Katz didn't leave the populace with any sort of fear factor of him being some sort of wing-nut.

And his likability factor was neither over-the-top pro or con.

On balance I think most would say he won the day, just not in a gung-ho sort of way.

The idea was to finally be able to take the measure of the man.

After all these months of avoiding facing the media and the public, there was the hope we would come away feeling we knew him and what kind of an owner he'll likely be.

40-MINUTE CALL

I'm not sure that happened, exactly, with the 40-minute conference call interview yesterday.

But we did find out one thing: Daryl Katz is going to be a hands-on owner, in contrast to the largely hands-off approach of the previous ownership group.

While Katz chose often to wrap things in the Rexall brand, in the end he left no doubt that he is going to play with his $200 million new toy to some extent.

Whether that will be a good or bad thing, only time will tell.

"I think it is fair to say that I am very active participant in all our businesses on a day-to-day basis," was how he began to take on the hands-on, hands-off question.

"That is not to say that I run them. Our objective is to hire and maintain the best management we can. But I do have a day-to-day role and day-to-day interaction with all of my senior management. And I don't see it being any different with Rexall Sports.

"I can tell you that Katz Group companies have little-to-no bureaucracy.

"Management is empowered to make decisive decisions very quickly and we use that to our strategic advantage. I believe the Oilers can benefit from the philosophy. And I personally will be actively involved with senior executives on a day-to-day basis to discuss strategic and other issues."

Clearly Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish are safe, and there will be no concern that Katz is going to walk in and blow up the hockey side of the operation in some sort of knee-jerk reaction to the Oilers' current position in the standings.

'OLD BOYS CLUB'

Katz's view of the team is correct in seeing it as "a great group of young players with loads of potential."

The about-to-be new owner made it quite clear that he considers Lowe, MacTavish and their Oiler teammates from the Stanley Cup years as friends, which will no doubt infuriate those who believe the biggest thing already wrong around here is the "old boys' club" mentality.

"I have known Kevin and Craig for a long time. It goes back to the glory days of the team. I grew up with a lot of the guys. I have great regard for their commitment and what they have brought to the team and the city. I think they are true ambassadors of the Oilers."

The one area where Katz sounded like he believed he could be a factor himself, personally, was convincing top end free-agent players to sign here.

"I clearly think there is a role for me to play.

"I have had this discussion with a number of agents and a number of people who work in professional hockey, and I think it is fair to say that an owner who is passionate and aggressive who wants to win and wants to put himself out there to attract talent has an opportunity to do that.

"I have heard as much from sports agents, that that is one thing that a single owner can bring to a team. I would see myself in having a role to the extent management wants me to do that."

There were a lot of things, especially in regards to the new arena, where it wasn't in Katz's best interest to say much.

And he didn't. The bottom line is that he didn't hurt himself with much of what he said or didn't say. And if he'd done this a lot earlier I think he would have done everybody a favour.

If nothing else, even the monotone drone was calming enough to put the focus back on the ice and Katz back to the background for the rest of the season until he actually comes out to see if he can see his shadow. Which will provide information for further inspection.


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