Getty ImagesThe love bestowed upon Jeremy Jacobs by Boston Bruins fans after the team won the Stanley Cup in 2011 was some hockey-related strain of Stockholm Syndrome.
He's not a terrible team owner — the Bruins have missed the playoffs five times since he purchased the team in 1975, and he helped finance the pieces for the Cup championship — yet he's been seen as an apathetic one. But he's helped take hockey fans hostage twice in the last eight years, as an engine for the lockouts.
Lockouts seem to bring out the worst in Jacobs, don't they? Back in 2004, he encouraged the Bruins' front office to blow up the team's roster ahead of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. It was a seismically stupid gamble: Jacobs didn't think the NHLPA would ever offer a rollback on salaries, and has admitted that the Bruins wouldn't have detonated their locker room had he known the union would.
Back in 2004-05, when Jacobs was a driving force in the NHL's work stoppage, he painted the players as myopic and framed the owners as the ones attempting to save the League. From the Buffalo News on Feb. 26:
"This is the silliness," [Jacobs] said. "It's the drinking-the-Kool Aid sort of thing where you have guys out there who think, 'We're going to make it so bad for the owners that they're going to want us back.' The fact is this is getting worse, and it's getting worse for the players more than it is for us."
Fact is, lockouts hurt Jeremy Jacobs more than other owners. Such is life when your company, Delaware North, runs arena concessions for no less than six NHL buildings. This isn't Mike Illitch falling back into the soft cushion of pizza money; this is an owner that needs arenas that aren't darkened by a work stoppage.
So you can understand why Jeremy Jacobs might get a little testy sometimes during a lockout, besides the notion that its inherently in his DNA. Winnipeg Jets' owners recently discovered Jacobs' lockout comportment when they had the gall to speak out against the work stoppage — well, depending on whom you believe.
Joe Haggerty of CSN New England dropped a bomb this week about the dynamics in the room for the NHL's owners:
Winnipeg Jets representation at a recent NHL Board of Governors meeting piped up to say it was opposed to engaging in a long, bloody lockout sure to stymie their franchise's momentum and hurt the game of hockey.
It wasn't Winnipeg owner Mark Chipman, but rather one of the alternate governors representing the Jets.
Bruins Principal Owner and Chairman of the Board of Governors Jeremy Jacobs answered by reprimanding the Winnipeg representative as one of the "new kids on the block" and informed him that he would know when he was allowed to speak in the NHL board room.
That's the kind of hawkish, dismissive, bully mentality that's driving the bus for the NHL lockout that's now cancelled games through the middle of December.
To the surprise of absolutely no one with a functioning brain stem, the NHL and their Pets, er, Jets, denied and denied and denied this ever happened to the Winnipeg Free Press (which, by the way, remains the only newspaper to have been given access to Commissioner Gary Bettman for a Q&A in the last month):
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, in an e-mail to The Free Press, said the story was a "100% complete and total fabrication."
Chipman issued the following statement Wednesday night:
"I was disappointed to learn today of a report which claimed an exchange took place between an Alternate Governor of the Winnipeg Jets and Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins at a recent NHL Board of Governors meeting. I was present throughout all BOG proceedings and can categorically state that no such exchange between Mr. Jacobs and either one of our Alternate Governors - Patrick Phillips or Kevin Cheveldayoff - ever took place. Any suggestion otherwise is completely false."
(Again with the "fabrication" talk. Funny how solid reporters suddenly become agenda-driven fabulists when their news paints the NHL's owners in a candid light.)
No one's buying the denial because it just feels true. The Jets are one of those franchises that's financially solid and riding a wave of momentum that this lockout is supremely [expletiving] with. Jacobs is a Gary Bettman loyalist who has already pushed one season over the cliff because he believes the hardliners have the game's best interests in mind and because he believes the players are a bunch of fiscal idiots.
That said, the story also shows the double-standard in reporting and reaction to the owners and the players in this lockout.
Roman Hamrlik is vilified as uninformed and traitorous for urging Donald Fehr to cut a deal; players like Troy Brouwer are applauded for smacking him down.
How is that any different that Jacobs reprimanding another owner for attempting to break solidarity?
Face it: Had this been Shawn Thornton humbling, say, Zach Bogosian as a gullible newbie that should know his role and shut his month, the Boston media would be fitting him for a crown as King of the Union.
Instead, it's Jeremy Jacobs, hardline [expletive] that's silencing dissent (well, allegedly) and continuing to drive this maddening work stoppage. He knows he can be a bully so long as seven other owners fall in line behind Bettman, giving the commissioner protection from any vote to end the lockout.
This isn't to defend Jacobs, mind you; that he's helped drive this League into another lockout is indefensible.
Bruins fans can show their disapproval of the Jacobs-led NHL lockout by canceling season tickets, switching to the AHL or college hockey instead of the local NHL product, or simply changing the channel when the games come back. For business mavens like Jacobs, that is the only language they understand.
But that's not an easy task so what else could fans do? Jacobs owns the TD Garden so they could skip the circus, swear off concerts at the Garden, and even victimize the Celtics as innocent bystanders in the House that Jacobs Built.
It's probably not realistic, but it's something to think about as those that love the NHL try to come up with a way to clearly illustrate to Jacobs, Bettman and Co. that two lengthy work stoppages in eight years is simply unacceptable.
It is unacceptable. The fans know it. The players know it. The owners know it too, and therein lies the problem: For every owner that knows Bettman could turn the key on the lockout with a deal they find acceptable, there's an owner like Jacobs that isn't going to give an inch to them or to the players on the other side of the table.
It's not in a bully's nature to ease up until the humiliation is over.