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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Colin Horgan

Ryan Reynolds wants to expand his sports empire. Will Snoop stop him?

Ryan Reynolds attending an Ottawa Senators game earlier this season
Ryan Reynolds attending an Ottawa Senators game earlier this season. Photograph: Adrian Wyld/AP

Just a few months ago, the idea that multiple celebrities would be anxious to buy the Ottawa Senators might have seemed a tad ridiculous. Yet, here we are. Ryan Reynolds, Snoop Dogg and The Weeknd are each part of different offers being considered for the NHL team, which was recently valued at $800m by Forbes despite reaching the playoffs just twice in the last 10 seasons. The Senators are currently owned by the estate of Eugene Melnyk, who died in March 2022, and will only sell to a group willing to keep the team in Ottawa – although most likely in a stadium a bit closer to downtown.

It’s hardly unheard of for celebrities to buy into sports teams. In fact, Reynolds and Snoop are both already heavily involved in sports. Reynolds has attracted huge amounts of publicity as part-owner of Welsh soccer club Wrexham FC, which he acquired alongside another actor, Rob McElhenney. For his part, Snoop has successfully launched youth football and basketball leagues. As for The Weeknd? He’s new to this.

Here’s a look at each celebrity-tied bid. The NHL hopes to find a new owner by the start of July.

Ryan Reynolds (with Toronto-based real estate developers, The Remington Group)

Reported bid value: More than $1bn.

The sell: While the fact that Reynolds wants to own the Senators has been widely discussed, it’s still not very clear why. The closest he has come to an explanation was last fall during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. “I grew up in Vancouver, which has my heart always, but I also grew up in Ottawa,” Reynolds said, noting he’d spent time in Vanier, a neighborhood of the city.

In November, Reynolds popped up at a Senators game, where he received a standing ovation. In March, Reynolds paid a visit to Ottawa’s mayor, Mark Sutcliffe, who was vague when asked what they covered during their conversation, only noting that “where the arena will be, what the city’s role will be and how much land is available or things like that … none of that was discussed.”

Regarding his plans for the Senators, should he be part of the winning bid, Reynolds has referenced Wrexham: “If you’re going to grow the club, you have to be … able to grow that community,” he told BNN Bloomberg. “You’re making people care about the town that club is in. What I care about is that people care about Wrexham all over the world.”

Chances of success: Reynolds, as arguably the most popular Canadian Ryan (sorry, Gosling), is certainly the people’s choice. Recently, on the 32 Thoughts podcast, NHL commentator Elliotte Friedman said that, according to his sources, “I think it’s a situation where some of the other groups are kind of understanding that, if it’s close, it’s going to be tough to beat the Reynolds train.”

He’s also a shrewd businessman. He packaged his purchase of Wrexham around a hugely successful documentary about the club, which brought himself and McElhenney enormous amounts of goodwill. And he became (even) richer when Mint Mobile, of which he was a part-owner, was sold for $1.35bn earlier this year.

Snoop Dogg (as part of a bid put forward by LA-based entrepreneur and producer, Neko Sparks)

Reported bid value: Unknown, but the Athletic has reported that “multiple sources state the Sparks group is not intimidated by the notion of the final sale price … eclipsing $1bn.”

The sell: Snoop is no stranger to the NHL, beginning with the famous Pittsburgh Penguins jersey that he wore in the 1994 video for Gin & Juice. More recently, Snoop has produced a series of hockey explainer videos for the NHL and has made guest appearances during LA Kings games, including reading out the starting lineup in the dressing room in 2020, and doing some play-by-play commentary in 2021.

Snoop’s interest in the Senators, however, seems to be more about growing interest in – and access to – hockey. “I’m watching more and more kids that look like me play the game, but I’m not seeing it being offered to the kids over here in America,” he told ESPN’s First Take last week, adding that, beyond being a part-owner of the Senators, “the plan that we have is to also go and build a Snoop youth hockey league outside of Canada, so kids in urban communities can learn about hockey and play the sport.”

But Snoop has committed to spending time in Ottawa, too. “My role in Ottawa will be a community activist … You will see me at least six times a year,” he told the Athletic. “If we make the playoffs, you’ll see me at least 10 times a year.”

Chances of success: Not impossible! There are reportedly multiple former NHL-ers involved in the Sparks bid, including Grant Fuhr, James Neal, Mattias Norstrom, and Trevor Daley. And Snoop’s message about bringing hockey to communities where it has not historically been played or watched aligns with the NHL’s growth goals.

The Weeknd (as part of a bid put forward by Jeffrey and Michael Kimel of the Harlo Capital and Harlo Entertainment Group)

Reported bid value: Unknown.

The sell: According to Postmedia, which was first to report the news (though Friedman first mentioned his name in connection to a bid in November), The Weeknd “wants to be a part of the bid because he grew up in Toronto, loves hockey, has ties to the Ottawa area and believes there’s a chance to be a part of something special.” Postmedia quoted a source that said “the team he works with grew up in Ottawa, so they know the market really well … he wants to build something that will be great in Ottawa.”

Chances of success: Probably good. Michael Kimel used to own a minority stake in the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Kimels have previously expressed an interest in playing a role in owning the team and developing a new arena for the Senators.

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