On Friday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Patriots owner Robert Kraft dedicated a permanently empty black seat to the memory of this nations service men and women who have been prisoners of war or have gone missing in action. It was a touching tribute to those who have paid the ultimate price for the preservation of the American way of life and just another example why the Krafts are widely regarded as the gold standard for owners in the realm of professional sports franchises.
On Friday in New York, Boston Bruins owner and Chairman of the NHL Board of Governors Jeremy Jacobs was doing his best to make sure that every seat at the TD Garden remains empty for the rest of this hockey season.
Has there ever been a larger dichotomy between a towns team owners in the history of professional sports?
On one hand you have Robert Kraft, who is almost universally loved. A rocky relationship with NFL coach-and-prostitute extraordinaire Bill Parcells, and a aborted move to Connecticut, are distant memories for fans who now adore the Krafts and their loving stewardship of New Englands NFL franchise. Their hard work and personal capital have built a new stadium and instilled a championship tradition into a franchise that used to be a laughingstock. The days of the superflush gave way to three Super Bowls and more than a decade of championship contention and relevance.
And on the other hand you have the Jacobs family. Since 1975 Jeremy and company have taken a successful and beloved franchise, rich with history and tradition, with undoubtedly the most loyal following in town, and done everything in their power to turn the fan base against them. The Jacobs legacy, as far as Bruins fans are concerned, is composed of miserly spending, invisible leadership and years of profitable mediocrity. This resulted in over 30 years of promise ending in failure and disappointment. The ledger being in the black was always more import than the Bruins being in contention. Forget one seat; Jacobs had to color half the seats in the then Fleet Center black so the vast number of MIA fans would be less evident to TV telecasts.
You would think that these two couldnt be in any more diametrical opposition than the above examples, but the gulf between the two only widens when you compare the roles Kraft and Jacobs have played in their leagues respective labor disputes.
Robert Kraft is widely credited as the man who instigated the deal between the NFL owners and the Players association during the 2011 NFL Lockout. In-between caring for his wife Myra as she battled terminal cancer, Robert Kraft worked to bridge the gap between the players and owners. Nobody who saw it will ever forget the announcement that ended the lockout where a haggard and drained Kraft was embraced by player rep Jeff Saturday and thanked personally for his role in bringing about labor peace. Football fans all over the country found out on that day what fans in New England already knew: That Robert Kraft loved the sport of football and was there for it and its fans when the sport needed him the most.
Jeremy Jacobs? He is widely regarded as the driving force behind not one but two crippling NHL work stoppages.
In 2004, JJs years of frugality at the expense of contention came to fruition as Jacobs and the rest of the owners finally got the salary cap he lusted for. No Bruins fan will ever forget Jacobs willfully killing off a season in exchange for his precious cap. Nor will they forget that in the process, the best Bruins squad in a decade was gutted during the lockout and it left the team woefully ill-equipped to contend afterwards. But in Jeremy Jacobss world, cost certainty made it all worth it. Bruins fans would beg to differ.
The Bruins suffered through a rebuilding process that included front office turnover, roster churning, and a period of fan apathy like no other. But after years of rebuilding, Jacobs had a sport experiencing record growth, a Stanley Cup and a new chance to rewrite his hockey legacy.
Once again labor related turmoil is threatening the NHL. With the blood feud to establish a hard salary cap behind them, the opportunity for compromise between the players and owners seemed attainable. The chance to mediate a settlement and complete his legacy rehabilitation was there to be had for Jacobs. But unfortunately, there was also a chance at more money.
Instead of stepping to the forefront to broker an agreement and save hockey from another cataclysmic event, Jeremy Jacobs is once again the leader of a cabal of hardline owners determined to line their pockets at the expense of the NHL and its fans. According to some reports, Jacobss mere presence at Fridays meetings may have derailed any recent progress.
Jacobs never was and never will be a caretaker of the game like Kraft. Hes never really been a fan, just a guy out to make a buck. In order to make more money Jacobs is again willing to risk the future of a contending team and a fragile niche sport. In his never-ending quest for a better deal, Jeremy Jacobs is more than willing to spit in the faces of the players the fans. When this mess gets sorted out there wont be a photo op of Sidney Crosby thanking Jacobs with a impromptu embrace, and if Sid the Kid did hug J.J. hed be wise to check for his wallet afterward.
On Friday in Foxboro, Robert Kraft once again proved that he and his family are worthy caretakers of the Patriots. A bust in Canton will bare his likeness because, like the POWMIA slogan, Robert Kraft has never forgotten his role as the caretaker his the team, the sport and the fans he serves.
On Friday in New York, Jeremy Jacobs proved he is once again willing to put his sport at risk for money. The Jacobs name will live in infamy and be forever synonymous with unquenchable greed. Jeremy Jacobs willfully and repeatedly damaged the NHL and the sport of hockey. For this he will never be forgotten or forgiven.