He’d been in poor health the past few years, so this isn’t utterly unexpected, although it was still a bit of a jolt to read on my BlackBerry in the checkout line at Giant Eagle just a few minutes ago. It also adds a bit more of a sad note to the Jackets’ failure to make the playoffs yet again this year, that Mr. McConnell never got to see his team play in the postseason.
I wasn’t in Columbus yet when the whole debate about the funding of the arena occurred. But certainly Mr. McConnell seemed to have high popularity among Jackets’ fans for bringing the team to Columbus, as evinced by the standing ovations at Nationwide Arena whenever he was shown on the jumbotron during a game. I know some Jackets’ fans felt like he held the purse strings too tight, especially this past season, and thus hampered the organization’s ability to put a winning organization on the ice, so the support wasn’t 100%. Although he did open up his wallet for Doug MacLean on more than a few ill advised occasions, so I hardly think we can accuse him of being an Ohioan Bill Wirtz. And given that the sports owners I was most familiar with prior to moving to Columbus were Marge Schott, Mike Brown, Bruce Firestone and Rod Bryden, Mr. Mac did always seem like a pretty good guy by comparison. So I’ll be recognizing his passing with some sadness.
The big question is what this means for the CBJ. I’ve heard from people who have dealt with both in business capacities that John P. McConnell, who I assume will take control of all his father’s holdings, is more of a hard-nosed businessman, and less inclined to suck up continued losses for the sake of civic pride. Which may or may not be true, but would seem to put some more pressure on the team to start winning next season and building the fanbase back up, lest relocation become something more than Jim Balsillie’s wet dream…
In any event, RIP Mr. Mac. I wish I could toast your memory this evening while watching your team fight towards the Stanley Cup, but a toast in front of the Rangers-Penguins game will have to suffice.