2003 - 2004
August 24, 2003
Bill Black III
Greensboro Generals chairman
News & Record
Q: You were at the coliseum for the second-ever Generals game in '59. What about those early hockey-going experiences got you hooked on the sport?
A: It was the kind of thing where hockey was such a novelty, and the coliseum was such a novelty, that it was a big deal for this city. When you go out there, you'd see the mayor 'and the people you wanted to see and be seen with. And I picked right up on that.
Q: After playing on frozen ponds as a kid, what inspired you to play hockey again at the age of 51?
A: I got a pair of skates for Father's Day. I had been running a lot and with all the pounding, it was time to do a little cross-training. And I thought, let's do a little ice skating. So I did.
Q: What do you get out of hockey that you don't get from running, golf and other sports?
A: The team aspect of hockey is the one thing, let alone the physical workout. You get cardio, hand-eye coordination. That game involves so many things.
Q: How much does the long-term success of the Generals depend on getting area kids turned on to hockey?
A: It's huge. ... Our (Carolina Monarchs) ownership group, part of our settlement with the city had some Dewey Trogdon Cone Mills stock that was dedicated specifically to youth hockey. ... That's a sincere belief in our group: it's the future of hockey and the future of kids.
Q: Your group has embarked on a hockey-revitalization plan that brings in a number of investors and may include a public offering. Explain the coliseum's role.
A: Matt Brown and the coliseum have agreed to run the hockey team. They'll handle all the day-to-day operations. The player decisions will be handled by coach (Rick) Adduono. The beauty of that is that gives us being some investment group the whole season to figure out how best to keep hockey in Greensboro and go forward.
Q: How confident are you that you can work out a deal with the ECHL similar to what the West Coast League teams got, where they're paying $300,000 over 10 years to join the league? (The Generals owe $1.2 million for its membership.)
A: If we've got a 2,000 season-ticket base or we've got an investment group with money in escrow ready to go forward, or both, the East Coast Hockey League has got to look favorably on that. And they also have to know that if they don't restructure what's out there, we go away. And I don't think they let that happen.
Q: The ECHL Monarchs made money. Can minor-league hockey ever turn a profit in Greensboro again?
A: Like so many businesses, it's gone through the cycle, and obviously it's on the down leg of the cycle. The question is: How much further does it have to go before it stabilizes? And there are so many uncertainties out there. Will it be profitable again? Yes. Just don't me to tell you when.
Q: With the uncertainty, why invest?
A: It's not for any potential return. It's not to make any of us millionaires. I think I've used the analogy before: It's not a Microsoft, but it's not a WorldCom, either. It's an investment in the community.
Q: With labor talks between the ECHL and the players union at an impasse and no players signed just two months before the season is scheduled to start, how concerned are you?
A: It's no bigger concern of mine than it would be for anyone else in hockey. We're all in the same boat. This is part of the painful process of undoing the excesses that were built into the upswing of the business cycle.
Professional background: Has been president of Bill Black Automotive since 1984. His father, Bill Black Jr., opened the dealership in Greensboro in 1955.
Hockey background: Was part of an investor group that bought the Greensboro Monarchs from Bill Coffey in 1991. Elevated the once-profitable Monarchs from the East Coast Hockey League to the American Hockey League in 1995. After two seasons, the Carolina Monarchs were leased, and later sold, to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Generals joined the ECHL in 1999 with Art Donaldson as majority owner. Black had not invested personally in the Generals until he and Don Brady agreed in June to lease the team from Donaldson. Black is chairman; Brady is president. Black plays for Touareg, a club-hockey team that plays in the Ice House's C League.