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NEW JERSEY DEVILS MEDIA CONFERENCE


May 9, 2015


Joshua Harris


JOSHUA HARRIS:  Nice to see you guys.  It's a pleasure to be here.
So the last week was obviously a critical time in franchise history.  With the hiring of Ray Shero, with Lou staying on, I think we've really set the organization up to be really successful.  I think we have two of the most experienced top people on the hockey side now in sync.
Our goals really haven't changed.  We bought the team to win.  Obviously the last few seasons have been incredibly disappointing for us.  But there are no shortcuts.  It starts with putting the right leadership in place.  We've done that.  We set the organization up now for the future.
I think the most important job you have as an owner is putting in place a GM.  I feel really good about where we are on that score.
So with that, I will open it up.  This is really your time.  I'll allow you all to fire away, ask me whatever you'd like.

Q.  How much of this were you involved in bringing in Ray Shero?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  When we first bought the team two years ago, we chatted with Lou about ultimate succession.  We run 40 businesses at Apollo.  Blackstone runs countless others, my partner David Blitzer.  That's a healthy thing to talk about.  We've been talking about it with Lou for a while, since we started here at the Devils.
People like Ray Shero don't come along every day.  He's a unique blend of having hockey in his blood and having been with multiple organizations, having delivered Stanley Cup victories.  It made sense to pursue it at this time.

Q.  Josh, can you define what in your mind the duties of the president will be from now on?  What will the duties be?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  Well, let's start with the GM.  The GM is going to be responsible for all hockey operations.  I think Lou brings, as president, a lot to the table in terms of his history with the organization, his knowledge of hockey.  So he'll be in the mix and ultimately have Ray reporting to him.
I think that's the way I would say it.

Q.  Josh, ultimately when would you like to see the managerial group bring in a new coach, have a new coach in here?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  In terms of the coach, it's something that Lou and Ray are focused on, we're focused on.  But you really want to get the right coach, not the quickest person available.
It's clearly a high priority right now.  So really it's about getting the right coach.  Clearly we've got our existing people, and we have outside people.  We're going to go through a process that allows the organization to get the right coach.

Q.  You were willing to do the long play with the Sixers.  Is this a similar situation or is this a turnaround that could happen in a year?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  God, I hope not.  They're two totally different situations.  It's hard to draw parallels.
I think our goals are very much the same.  We didn't do this to be second best.  We want to build an elite organization.  What that means is that we're consistently in the mix, deep in the playoffs for the Stanley Cup, and we ultimately deliver a Stanley Cup or a number of Stanley Cups.  That's not easy to do.  29 other owners want to do that.  They're all really smart and resourced.
There aren't really any shortcuts.  We're going to really put in place plans that allow us to do that.  Every decision that we make will be oriented around that.  Ultimately I believe we'll be successful.
I don't see the two situations as similar.  I think the goals are similar.

Q.  When you look at the roster, do you see enough pieces in place?  You lack a dominant scorer.
JOSHUA HARRIS:¬† Look, obviously I feel like we have our long‑term goaltending situation in place.¬† I feel excited about where we are with Cory.¬† I think that was a great signing a year ago.
I think we have a very young defense that's been quite good and will continue to improve, obviously led by Andy Greene, but with a lot of people that are in a position to get better, are already doing a great job.
We lack scoring.  We need to improve our offensive game.  I don't think any of that is very mysterious.  How you do that and how long it takes, you know, is unclear.
There's the draft.  There's free agents.  There's trades.  We're going to put all that on the table and try to make intelligent decisions.
I think both Lou and Ray have shown that they're capable of doing that.

Q.  In sports there's cycles, teams get old, championship teams fall off.  Do you see mistakes have been made here or are we in a cycle where this is a rebuilding situation for this team?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  I think there are no excuses.  We've owned the team for two years.  We haven't made the playoffs either of those two years.  Team has made the playoffs once in the last five years.  Clearly we need to improve the people we have on the ice.  We're going to work hard to do that.
I'm not sure exactly how to address that question.  But that's what I would say.  We clearly have to sort of up our game.

Q.  You were involved in talking with Ray before he was hired.  Will you be involved similarly as far as a coaching search?  Financially, there's some candidates that can be demanding a lot of money.  Are you committed to paying for the best coach if that situation would arise?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  I would say that the most important job you have as an owner is hiring a GM.  I mean, ultimately we are engaged, involved in major decisions that affect the franchise.
I don't expect to be out front in terms of hiring a coach.  I don't think that level of involvement would make sense.  But certainly we'll be in the mix, want to be very informed about what are the qualities being measured and weighed in terms of making that decision.
We may want to meet the coach, I'm not sure.  So that's kind of a first answer.
The second answer, I think we're not afraid to spend if it makes sense for the franchise.  I mean, I think this is something that we're committed to winning here in New Jersey.  We're committed to building something here that Newark can be proud of, that New Jersey can be proud of, and that we and our families and the leadership and the employees can be proud of.
We'll spend when it makes sense to spend.

Q.  Was Ray someone you identified yourself?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  Yeah.  Interestingly, Lou ultimately took the lead in hiring Ray.  But when we compared lists, he was top on each list.  We have a uniform view of that, and we both did our own work.

Q.  Did that surprise you when Lou came to you with that suggestion?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  No.  I think, again, running any good organization, these are the kinds of discussions you have on an ongoing basis.

Q.  Do you foresee any significant changes in player personnel, scouts, front office staff, anything like that?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  I mean, Ray just started.  He's been here four days.  He needs to actually go and meet everyone.  Ultimately the organization will be reporting to him.
We're asking him to come back with his views after a reasonable period of time, having met everyone.  I think the Devils' history of winning over the last 25 years, 30 years, everyone understands that, the culture that's been built, the job that Lou has done in putting the organization together.  This organization has delivered.  Certainly the last few years have been disappointing.
I don't imagine there will be wholesale changes.  But like anything else, when you get someone, this organization has been a long time, Ray is coming in having been involved with three organizations, Pittsburgh being the last one, but Ottawa and Nashville being in the mix, too.  He's been involved with Pittsburgh that went to the playoffs every single year and won the Stanley Cup with him as GM, and he's been an assistant GM in Ottawa and Nashville.
My guess is he's going to bring new ideas and perspectives to the table.  I would imagine everything will not stay exactly the same, but there's a great foundation to build on.

Q.¬† Without mentioning any specific names, when the coaching search is underway, there have been reports that some people, at least one possible candidate turned down the chance to be the highest‑paid coach in the league.¬† Would that scare you to have the highest‑paid coach in the league?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  Not if it was consistent with achieving our goals.  Not if it was consistent with achieving our goals.
I kind of look at it this way.¬† The cap will be around $70 million, plus or minus.¬† I think people tend to under‑invest in their front office.¬† I kind of know what you're hinting at.
Having said that, I'm waiting for advice from our front office as to how to handle that.  We're financially set up to invest in the team.  We're not going to do that in a way that is whimsical.  We're going to want and ask for an ROI in terms of winning on our investment.  If we are asked to make significant investments, we're going to make them when and if they make sense.  But we're going to hold people accountable for those decisions.

Q.  Do you know if Ray plans to talk to Mike Babcock?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  I have no idea.  I shouldn't comment on specifics.

Q.  What frustrated you the most this season about the team?
JOSHUA HARRIS:¬† Look, I like to win.¬† I've grown up achieving goals and being very goal‑oriented.¬† It's really bothersome.¬† I live in this area.¬† Two of our area teams are in the playoffs, and we're not in the playoffs.¬† I don't like sitting home right now and watching stuff on TV.¬† I'd rather be here in Newark.¬† So just not winning.

Q.  If you get an offer for the 6th pick, would you be willing to trade it?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  There are three ways to improve our team:  the draft, free agent and trades.  Everything's on the table.  So I think the way that you set yourself up to win is to be very opportunistic about picking up those players and those people that make themselves available.
If you have a direction or another direction, and you're tied to that direction, I think you're foreclosing options.
I like the option of being able to react.  We're going to be very busy as an organization over the next couple of months trying to do our best to improve our team.  Everything's on the table.

Q.  You have good fans.  How important is it to keep them abreast of this process?
JOSHUA HARRIS:¬† It's hugely important.¬† We need to continue to deliver for the fans on the ice. ¬†We're also spending a lot of time ‑ and I haven't spent a lot of time talking about it here ‑ but trying to improve the driveway‑to‑driveway experience, like what they experience here, the food they eat, the customer service they get.
We're very focused on the fans.  Communicating with the fans also is something that we have an obligation to do.  We're going to try to do that.

Q.  Did you feel there was a need for a fresh view with the organization, someone that wasn't inside, a different perspective?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  You know, one of the reasons we bought the Devils was the legacy of winning and the history here in New Jersey, the foundation that's been built.
I think bringing in talented people and having them add to that foundation is a real positive.  It's something that Lou welcomed.  It's something that we welcomed.  So I would position it a little differently than you positioned it.
But as long as you have great people, if they're aligned around the same goal, which is in our case winning a Stanley Cup, and they're open‑minded, that's always good.

Q.  You're putting a lot of money in the team, in the building.  Do you think there should be any correlation to ticket prices, what a team does on the ice?  The team has been out of the playoffs for three or four years.  Should the ticket prices stay the same, go up, go down?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  I think the fans have to get value for money.  Certainly how the team performs on the ice is a large component of that.  But there are other components, as well.
You know, the experience that you get here in addition to how the team plays on the ice is important.  But clearly there needs to be value for money.  To a large extent nothing makes the experience better than winning.  Certainly that needs to be a big part of the mix.

Q.  What went into the decision to raise ticket prices?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  In certain cases we raised ticket prices, in other cases we lowered ticket prices.  We're certainly looking to add value to the fans across the board, whether that be literally having people standing at the train station, having our staff trained, whether it be the food that people are eating, the performances that go on before and after the games.
I think we've done a lot of different things.  I think in some cases we've raised prices and in some cases we lowered them.
For me as a person, it's important that a family be able to go to this arena and afford it.  I think they're still able to do that.  There are tickets as low as $10.
The owner side of me doesn't love that, but I think it is the right thing to do and am happy to do that and I think we're happy to do that as an organization.

Q.  Are you making some changes within the building?  I heard something about changing seats.
JOSHUA HARRIS:  We're always looking to improve kind of the fan experience.  As far as what you're specifically referring to, I'll let Scott and Hugh address that.

Q.  Do you think in the NHL, even the teams that are not in the playoffs, are considered contenders?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  There's a lot of parity in the league today.  We've seen certainly last year even, history will be written this year, but last year we saw a team that barely made the playoffs win the Stanley Cup.
Certainly it's a league that there's a lot of parity.  I think that's good ultimately for the league.  I think that's what you're asking.  Yeah, I think it is a sport that's got a lot of parity in it.

Q.  You think this team is potentially not far away from being a league contender?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  I think we need to improve our offense.  I think we're in good shape around goaltending.  I think we have certainly a defense that is there and getting better.  But we need to improve our offense.  That's how I look at it.

Q.  Is it important for the fans to get to know Ray?
JOSHUA HARRIS: Certainly I think it's important for him to do that.

Q.  You spoke about Ray meeting with members of hockey operations, reporting back to you in a reasonable amount of time.  What constitutes a 'reasonable amount of time'?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  I expect there to be a lot of dialogue between ownership, David and I, Ray, and Lou.  I mean, certainly there will be some formal timeframes.  But I expect to be in daily communication with everyone.
I'm an impatient guy.  I want to know what's going on.  I want to know how meetings are going.  So I don't expect it to drag on.
Having said that, these are important long‑run decisions for the franchise.¬† Like I said, I don't think the foundation is broken.¬† The culture that exists here is a winning culture.¬† I think people care about the organization.¬† I think people are aligned.
Certainly my guess is any time you bring in a new person with new ideas, things will improve and change over time.  But I don't know that I'm expecting like big, wholesale changes.  But we'll see.

Q.  You have the Stanley Cup right over your head here.
JOSHUA HARRIS:  Nice.

Q.  You were around in '95.  I'm curious what that was like for you.
JOSHUA HARRIS:  First of all, it was great.  What I really learned is that people care about this team.  Real elite players who matter to the league, who matter to the fans, people like Ken Daneyko, people like Scott Stevens, they care about this team.  They want to be involved.  They want to help the team.
The number of great players who are now in front‑office positions, the knowledge and the history of those players, people that want to help this team, that really matters.¬† So I think history and culture do matter in the league.
What I got out of the '95 team was, A, the DNA of the team becomes clear, sort of the mental toughness, the drive to win, the ingredients that make up this team become clear.  Then also just the reach and history of the franchise.  It was a great experience.  I think anytime you can bring back great athletes that are important to the history of an organization, we're going to do that.  That was a great thing for the franchise, and we're going to do more of that.

Q.  How closely are you following the playoffs?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  I'm watching it.  Like I said, it's frustrating to not be involved directly.  I'm a fan.  Certainly not as closely as I would be if New Jersey was in it.

Q.  What is the time table to be in the playoffs?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  We talked about that.  I don't think it's fair.  There are no shortcuts.  I think what I would tell the fans is that it matters to ownership, it matters to the front office.  We're going to put our life forces and our wallets, if needed, into this.  We're going to make decisions that allow us to be an elite team.
That's not being one‑and‑done in the playoffs.¬† Being one‑and‑done in the playoffs is not really interesting from my point of view.¬† I think that means going deep in the playoffs, being in the hunt for the Stanley Cup, ultimately competing for and winning the Stanley Cup.
Putting a timeframe on it, if it takes a little time to achieve that...  We're going to make decisions that are consistent with that goal.  I can't put a timeframe on it.  I can tell you I want it to be as fast as possible.

Q.  With the understanding that he currently works for another organization, could you foresee a future role for Marty Brodeur in the organization?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  I can't comment on people that work for other organizations.  Certainly Marty is very important to the history of the Devils.  He'll always be a Devil, no matter what organization he works for.

Q.  Will Brodeur’s number be retired next season?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  I don't know exactly where that stands.

Q.  When you say you need a little time to achieve the goal, obviously talking about winning a Stanley Cup, how critical, how important is it for you to see with changes that are beginning to take place here that the team qualify for the playoffs next season?
JOSHUA HARRIS:¬† Yeah, look, not being in the playoffs next year would be disappointing for me.¬† Like I said, setting the team up to be one‑and‑done in the playoffs isn't really my goal.¬† I want to set the team up to be competing for the Stanley Cup for a long time.
Therefore, there are decisions you can make that produce short‑term results and sacrifice the long run.¬† I think we're going to make decisions that are consistent with being a long‑run winner.
A lot of times those decisions are similar, but sometimes they're not.  That would be the best way that I would answer what we want to do.

Q.  How is the team doing off the ice?  You invested a lot into it.  Not making the playoffs...
JOSHUA HARRIS:¬† Generally speaking, NHL franchise values are going up.¬† You can look at the last few investments and purchases that have been made.¬† On a year‑in, year‑out basis, this isn't a highly profitable venture for us yet.

Q.  What is the relationship between the Devils and city of Newark?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  I think the relationship is really good.  Thankfully the mayor often attends the events.  I think Hugh and Scott and I try to be here, a part of the Newark community.  I've made some personal investments in Newark.  We're doing some charitable things to help the city.
For me at least, when I bought the franchise, I wanted to engage with the city of Newark.  I think helping to be part of the ongoing improvement of Newark is something that's important to me personally and I think is something that is important to the organization, something that we're very engaged in.  It's critical.

Q.  Can you offer any insight on purchasing any other international professional sports teams?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  I don't really comment on other unannounced deals or big deals that aren't completed.  That's M and A 101.  That's my day job speaking.
One last thing.  Personally, and speaking for David Blitzer, we spend a lot of time on the Devils.  We go to a lot of games.  My son plays hockey here.  We're in the Newark community.  So we're working hard to make this place better.
As a general rule, we believe in hiring really good people and letting them do their jobs and holding them accountable, including allowing Lou and Scott and now Ray to speak day‑to‑day for the team.
The cadence that we've tried to set up is not to be nonexistent in terms of being in front of the people in this room and the fans, but at the same time also you let sort of the people that are running the day‑to‑day operations speak for the franchise.
Our cadence that we set up is to be here at the beginning and end of every season.  We're open to suggestions to a point, want to make sure that we're doing this enough that we're not mysterious.
Hopefully that works for everyone.

Q.  What has Lou meant to this organization?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  I can't say enough about Lou and what he's done for this organization.  This has been written about.  The organization, Mickey Mouse organization, Disney organization, Lou came in and built a winning culture, ultimately delivered three Stanley Cups.
Even more than that, and I happen to maybe know a little more about this just as a personal matter, when the organization was going through some of its financial issues, Lou held the place together in a very high‑quality, high‑class way.
The organization has a lot of historical figures, but Lou really is the heart and soul of the organization.¬† I really hope that he's a Devil for life both figuratively and actually day‑to‑day.¬† We're working with him to make this an attractive place for him as long as he wants to be around.¬† He's told me that's going to be for a while.¬† That will be ultimately his decision, but we're going to try to maintain his role, his visibility, what he's doing here.
I'm gratified that we could find someone like Ray that Lou was willing to work with.  Lou deeply cares about the New Jersey Devils to his core.  We really appreciate him and everything he's done and will do.

Q.  You talked about your relationship with Newark.  How about the state of New Jersey?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  The Pru Center and the Devils mean a lot to Newark and a lot to New Jersey.  My comments about caring about Newark do expand to New Jersey.
We're building a practice facility for the Philadelphia 76ers in Camden, in New Jersey.  A lot of thought went into that.  That will be the nicest practice facility in the NBA.  It's a very large project, a very large investment.  It will add jobs in New Jersey.
We are in touch both with the leadership of Newark and the leadership of New Jersey.  We deeply care about this state and the city.

Q.  Have you gotten any sense, talking to ticketholders, about what their feelings are, other than being unhappy that the team hasn't won?
JOSHUA HARRIS:  One of the things as an owner which you take on is, even though you own a team, own a franchise, they're public assets.  You get a lot of input whether you want it or not.
So I would say that the fans that I've talked to I think are frustrated about the last two seasons.  At the same time I think they see real improvements in what we're doing here in terms of adding value off the ice and the investments we're making.
We appreciate that they're staying with us.  Clearly we need to deliver.  We understand that.  At some point talk is cheap.  Either we're playing in the playoffs or we're not, and we get that.
But I think so far, and we appreciate it, they're giving us the benefit of the doubt.  They're still with the New Jersey Devils.  They still want to come to the Pru.  They're excited about what's going on here.
We're going to continue to work hard to build that confidence and also deliver.
Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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