Editor’s Note: This is the next article in our series of major figures in the professional lacrosse industry. We’ve started with the NLL, and today we are profiling the ownership group of the Calgary Roughnecks, which just so happens to be the NHL’s Calgary Flames. Use the hashtag #LeadersInLacrosse on social media. Here are the profiles we have done so far:
- Introduction – Leaders In Lacrosse: Here Are The NLL’s Owners
- Georgia Swarm – John Arlotta, Andy Arlotta: Georgia Swarm Owner Profiles
- Toronto Rock – Jamie Dawick: Owner Of The Toronto Rock
- Saskatchewan Rush – Bruce Urban: The Man Behind The Rush Franchise
The Calgary Flames And The Roughnecks
Let Me Get This Straight…
An Overview Of Pro Sports Franchise Ownership
Yes, the Calgary Flames actually do directly own the Calgary Roughnecks franchise. This is a bit unusual in pro sports to have one professional sports franchise directly own another franchise from another league, or even other sport. There are plenty of organizations that act as holding companies for multiple professional sports teams, and allow people or groups to structure their investments. Obviously, there’s a lot of intricacy to this, but you can learn more about the basics of how holding companies work here.
An example of this is Comcast Spectacor which owns the Philadelphia Flyers and the Philadelphia Wings.
The Flames are actually owned by the Calgary Sports and Entertainment group, which owns other teams like the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL.
In a sense, the Roughnecks are owned by this same holding company but based on this release I found from the NHL the Flames actually technically own the Roughnecks. That is a bit more unusual, but not really all that surprising.
Having the same person or company own multiple sports franchises across sports was actually not as widely accepted until recently. The NFL actually used to have a policy where if you owned a franchise you were actually not allowed to have a significant interest in non-football sports investments. An example of this is when the San Francisco 49ers were fined $500,000 by the then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue when the owner of the 49ers at that time, Edward “Eddie” DeBartolo made the team a subsidiary of the DeBartolo Corp., which also owned the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.
The policy shifted to allow for franchises to be owned if they weren’t in competing markets, but the NFL changed its policy in 2018 to remove that restriction.
Multiple franchise ownership across different sports was more common at lower levels of professional sports or in sports that hadn’t achieved the same level of financial success that the NFL had. Now, there are far fewer restrictions on how that all works.
How It Has Worked In Lacrosse
Major League Lacrosse used to have different franchise owners until the league announced it would be moving to a model that had the league own each individual team, much like how the Premier Lacrosse League operated in its first year. The WPLL also operated closer to the same model during the 2019 season after it removed the specific location ties to each of its teams.
This idea makes sense for those situations because there are certain advantages to not being tied to a local market or have to deal with multiple ownership groups.
The NLL has historically always had various ownership groups or individuals owning different franchises. The league has stepped in and owned different franchises at different points, particularly during periods that required restructuring a number of years ago. The league has actually seen a lot of success over recent years in terms of growth with what has happened since.
This is the only hockey franchise I am aware of that directly owns an NLL team, although there are other holding companies that own both lacrosse and NHL teams. It makes complete sense to me why.
Many NLL teams play their games at hockey arenas, so if I were a pro hockey team owner, having another team to draw fans to the arena and generate revenue would theoretically work. Companies that own major event venues like NHL arenas like that are always looking for people to rent it out and use the space, so they can get as much of a return on the investment and expenses involved with owning it. I know there have been reports in the past about some NLL franchises struggling to generate revenue, but it would at least work in theory and could be a good longterm investment as the league continues to grow and expand.
The Roughnecks Franchise
Anyway, enough talk about business. Let’s get into the good stuff about some pro lacrosse.
The Early Years Under Brad Banister & Co.
The Franchise Is Born
Brad Banister originally took over the expansion franchise of the Roughnecks back in 2001. Oil is a big industry in Calgary and is a major financial center for that industry in the region. Calgary’s franchise was named the Roughnecks in order to pay homage to workers on oil rigs.
Chris Hall led the Roughnecks through their first five seasons after replacing Kevin Melnyk and won the NLL championship in 2004, the first of three championships for the Roughnecks franchise (2004, 2009, 2019).
The Roughnecks won its second NLL title in 2009 with Banister as the leader of the ownership group.
Banister announced just before the 2011 season that he was placing the team for sale. The NHL’s Flames initially indicated at that point they were not interested in purchasing the team.
Halfway through the season, as no new buyer had been found, the team was in danger of folding.
The Flames and Banister announced the sale of the Roughnecks franchise that next summer, while Banister would help the franchise during the transition period.
Success Under The New Ownership
Soon after the Flames took over the Roughnecks franchise, Curt Malawsky took over as head coach. Malawsky has a regular-season record with the team of 44 wins and 44 losses but recently won the 2019 NLL Championship, defeating the Buffalo Bandits and their addition of NLL goalie legend Matt Vinc in two games in a three-game series.
Dane Dobbie won the league-MVP award that season, but Dobbie was quick to praise young goaltender Christian Del Bianco for his performance, particularly during the finals series.
The Roughnecks franchise has also featured major league award winners like Mike Poulin (Goaltender of the Year, 2012), Curtis Dickson (Rookie of the Year, 2011) and Jeff Shattler (who won the league-MVP and Transition Player of the Year awards in the same season), among others.
The Calgary Flames And Its Success
Brief History Of The Flames Franchise
The Flames franchise began in 1972 and was relocated in 1980 to Calgary. This team is the third major professional hockey team to represent the city (Calgary Tigers, Calgary Cowboys, Calgary Flames).
The Flames have been to the Stanley Cup three different times (1986, 1989, 2004) and won its only NHL title in 1989. After hitting a rough patch in the early 2010s, the Flames have made the playoffs the last three seasons and won the Pacific Division last year. The Flames currently sit 31-24 and in fourth place in the Pacific Division.
Here are a few fun moments from the Calgary Roughnecks’ franchise (not comprehensive).
Buffalo at Calgary 2019 NLL Championship Game 2 – YouTube User: Logical Lacrosse
Riptide vs. Roughnecks | Full Highlights – National Lacrosse League
Pace scores hat trick in 91 seconds – National Lacrosse League
Correction: The original article listed Comcast Spectacor as also currently owning the Philadelphia 76ers. Comcast Spectacor sold the 76ers franchise to Josh Harris in 2011, and is owned by Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, of which Harris is chairman. This article has been updated to reflect this correction.