As Lamar Hunt Jr. began the process of purchasing the Missouri Mavericks hockey team, one fact made him cringe.
One of the team’s primary colors is orange.
“My wife even said, ‘That’s the Broncos,’” Hunt said in hushed tones during an introductory news conference at the Independence Events Center on Friday.
But Hunt, oldest son of Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt and a part owner of the NFL franchise, said there would be no changing of the Mavericks’ orange and light blue color scheme to the red and gold of the Chiefs.
“I’m not tinkering with the brand,” he said. “It’s a great brand.”
Hunt, 58, purchased the Mavericks for an undisclosed price from Independence Professional Hockey, a group headed by Matt Adams of Lubbock, Texas, who brought the franchise to Independence in 2009. The Mavericks, originally members of the Central Hockey League, was absorbed this season into the 28-team ECHL, considered a Class AA league.
“For us to have someone like Lamar with the background and experience and expertise in the sports business is something we very much welcome,” ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna, who attended the news conference. “This ownership change comes at a very opportune time for the league and also Mr. Hunt.
“We welcome Lamar’s input, his guidance as a member of our board of governors. His involvement at the team level and his experience in the growth and development of leagues and various sports will be invaluable to us.”
Hunt’s business, Loretto Sports Ventures, will operate the Mavericks separately from his family’s Dallas-based Hunt Sports Group.
“A lot of people have asked, ‘Why hockey?’” said Hunt. “I grew up in a sports-minded family. I grew up with a father who never saw a sporting event he never wanted to go to. And hockey was part of that growing up … we would go to the Dallas Blackhawks minor-league games …”
Hunt also attended the 1999 Stanley Cup Final, when the Dallas Stars won the NHL championship and celebrated with some of the players, including Richard Matvichuk, now coach of the Mavericks.
“This is huge,” Matvichuk said. “I’ve been fortunate to know the family … as great as Matt Adams was for this team, to bring in a name like Lamar Hunt Jr., we couldn’t be more delighted. What he and his family have done with the organization of the Chiefs and the American Football League … they’ve always been sports-oriented, and we were fortunate to have them around.”
Hunt emphasized that his primary goal is to build the Mavericks’ brand and broaden the fan base for hockey before he would even consider pursuing an NHL team for Kansas City.
“An NHL franchise is no easy undertaking,” Hunt said. “It would be a major, major commitment for a community to do that. It’s great to dream, but we have to be realistic about what a market can handle. The NHL is an extremely difficult business. There would be huge amount of risk that would be taken to put in an NHL team, because they’ve had struggles for sure.”
Compared to the NHL salary cap of $69 million, the cap in the ECHL is about $350,000, plus room and board for players, McKenna said. The Mavericks, considered one of the better drawing teams in minor-league hockey, average 5,176 in the 5,800-seat Independence Events Center, making it a profitable venture.
“Any business you get involved in, you want it to be profitable,” Hunt said. “You want it to pay its bills as it goes along. That’s one good thing about this set up. It’s solvent, it operates well, it’s got a good brand in the community.
“Let’s see what happens … We need to get kids on the ice, we need to create scarcity in this arena for tickets that it’s the place to go …”
Hunt hopes to lead a movement to add more rinks in the community as the Dallas Stars did when they re-located from Minnesota.
“Getting more skaters on the ice to play hockey, you need more sheets of ice,” Hunt said. “We have, to the best of our knowledge, only four sheets of ice in Kansas City, and if we can increase that by 50 percent in a fairly expedient and straight-forward manner, we would be doing a lot.
“We’ve got a vision for that. We’ll unfold that as time goes on.”