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Bruins owner Jacobs works to make League stronger

by Dan Rosen

The United States Hockey Hall of Fame will induct four new members on Thursday during a ceremony that includes two Lester Patrick Award winners. This week, profiles the six people to be honored.

The path of Jeremy Jacobs from successful executive in the food and hospitality business to owner of the Boston Bruins was quite simple, according to Jacobs.

"I knew somebody from Storer Broadcasting who told me it was available, they wanted to sell it, and I said, 'I want to buy it,'" Jacobs said. "That was it. It was such a win for us at all levels."

Jacobs, 75, will get a win for himself Thursday when he receives the Lester Patrick Trophy honoring his outstanding service to hockey in the United States during a reception in Boston.

The ability of Jacobs, who was 35 when he bought the Bruins, to help strengthen the business of the NHL at all levels by intertwining his passion for the game his corporate savvy are the reasons NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman believe he was selected to receive the Lester Patrick Trophy.

In addition to owning the Bruins since 1975, Jacobs has been the chairman of the NHL Board of Governors since 2007.

"He is at the core of the strength of this League," Commissioner Bettman said. "As Chairman of the Board, he's intimately involved on a daily basis on everything that's going on. He's an expert not just on the business of the game, but if you ask his hockey people, they'll tell you he watches as much, if not more, hockey than they do. He's extraordinarily knowledgeable about the game. And he's invested his time and passion into making the game strong.

"The Bruins are a model franchise, beloved in Boston, and fundamentally underlying everything he's done as Chairman of the Board has been focusing on what makes the League stronger."

Jacobs said the Lester Patrick Trophy humbles him because he gets to join an exclusive company of winners, particularly former Bruins Hall of Fame executive and coach Harry Sinden, and Bruins Hall of Fame player and president Cam Neely.

Sinden received the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1999; Neely was honored in 2010.

"It's just a very august and selected group that have accomplished a great deal for our sport," Jacobs said. "I'm just flattered to be included in it."

He also said the honor humbles him because it comes from the opinions of others, meaning it's out of his control, unlike the family business he built into a multibillion dollar international corporation after it was created by his father, Louis.

Jacobs is the chairman of Delaware North, the Buffalo-based global food-service and hospitality business that is among the largest of its kind in the world.

With the help of his older brothers Max and Lawrence, Jacobs bought the Bruins and Boston Garden in 1975. Jacobs said he was told at the time of purchase he would never be able to build a replacement for Boston Garden on the same site. TD Garden opened on that site in 1995.

"Now we sit with a new Boston Garden and projects going on all around us," Jacobs said. "It's quite an undertaking."

Owning the Bruins, who won the Stanley Cup in 2011, and being part of the growth of the NHL for four decades has become as much of a passion as it is a business for Jacobs.

"The older I get, the more it means to me and my family because it's a time of celebration whenever the season starts and it gives us a chance to be together," Jacobs said. "Those chances become rare as your children become older and your grandchildren grow too. It's something we experience together. There is nothing else we do or we have that is as compelling."

Jacobs said he has tried to be a generalist and a realistic in his role as Bruins owner, and, by extension, chairman of the Board of Governors. He said he tries to use his corporate mind to affect change because he's "not an intimate basket of hockey knowledge."

"I think you take whatever body of experience you have and you apply it to the game," Jacobs said. "Sometimes you're right and sometimes you're not."

Jacobs was steadfast in his belief that he was right during the 2004-05 lockout, when he helped the League negotiate with the NHL Players' Association for a new collective bargaining agreement that included a salary cap.

He did so in spite of the fact he knew he'd be labeled as a villain in some corners, and that the Bruins were one of the few teams that wouldn't benefit from a new system because they were strong enough to compete and contend in the old system.

"The Bruins are only as good as this League is, and this League needed competitive balance, we needed economic stability," Jacobs said. "It was for the greater good. It has sustained us right now and we're in a heck of a spot. We never expected to be where we are today."


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