By Dave Werstine
Long Beach Press Telegram
LONG BEACH, Calif. – New Ice Dogs owners Steve Bash (pictured), Isaac Bash and Ted Foxman strolled around the Long Beach Arena on Thursday morning. Not so much making last-minute preparations for the 2006-07 ECHL season or tonight’s season opener, their walk was about something very different.
In the arms of Isaac was his cat, L.J., who was doing his best to ensure a good start for the owners and a solid season for the team by “getting rid of any evil spirits in the building.”
“I come from a family that is very superstitious,” Steve explained.
The new owners, who bought the team from Barry Kemp during the offseason, might not have had to go to such an extreme to ward off those evil spirits basically the lack of profit and poor attendance if their plans come together as expected.
But first the backstory.
Steve Bash, the managing partner who owns a law office in Los Angeles and is also a boxing advisor, is the young brother of Isaac, an ER doctor at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica who helps out wherever he can, and Foxman, the executive partner who is the COO of a company in Chicago, and Steve Bash are best friends stemming from their days at DePaul Law School.
They are the new generation of sports team owners. The 30-somethings are not stuffed suits more jeans and T-shirt who only care about the financial bottom line. They are hands-on, preferring things get done their way.
Maybe most importantly, they are nothing more than big-time sports fans with a little more schooling and money than the rest of the wannabes out there. United, they too have a dream.
“That is the theme of this investment,” said Steve, 33. “We are not much different than the coaches and the players. We are all pursuing a dream.”
“We are fans first,” said Foxman, 32, who flew into Long Beach for opening weekend. “I’ve always wanted to be in the sports business. It’s a personal investment. It’s a celebration of what we love doing.”
“There’s a reason why fantasy sports are so popular,” Isaac, 36, said. “This is fantasy sports on steroids. This is the real deal. It’s every guy’s dream.”
The energetic trio is on the same page, bringing the passion to do whatever it takes to turn around what has been a struggling team into a winner on and off the ice.
Since Kemp brought the team to Long Beach in 1996, the team has not fared well financially and at the gate. During his 10 years as owner, Kemp lost upward of $15 million, and attendance hit an all-time low last season with 88,865.
Despite seeing the losses and all of the challenges, the group, known as Power Play Entertainment, decided to chase the dream, believing that they could come in and make a difference.
“I didn’t see too many negatives. What I saw were a lot of positives,” Steve said, despite buying the team when it was at its bottom.
One thing that will certainly work in their favor early on is that they are not all about making the almighty dollar.
“We are not in it to get rich,” Foxman said.
Still, they are very serious about their work.
“It’s not a toy,” Isaac said. “I put my life’s savings into the team. Everything takes money, but money comes and goes.”
For the past three months since taking over control of the team, the new ownership has worked diligently to get ready for opening night.
They have a revamped team with a new coach, Rick Adduono, the front office with hard-working, passionate people, and will bring a new style to game nights, including 32 promotional nights.
“We want every night to be special,” Steve said.
Even if all goes well tonight and the rest of the season, they still don’t expect to see a quick turnaround. They are figuring it will take two years before the fruits of their labors become noticeable.
“We are doing the best we can – and there is still work to be done,” Steve said. “It’s not going to change drastically overnight. We are hoping for an evolution after the first season and see changes in the second season.”
Arguably their biggest hurdle will be increasing attendance, where the Ice Dogs finished next to last in the ECHL last season.
While the Kemp regime failed miserably at filling the L.B. Arena, especially during the second half of his tenure, the new owners feel they can reach out to the greater Long Beach community with more of a grass-roots approach.
They want the community to feel that the Ice Dogs, whose stay in the city is unequaled, are Long Beach’s team. But at the same time, they feel they need to earn the respect.
“I have faith in Long Beach,” said Isaac. “Long Beach is a loyal city, but you have to give them a reason to be loyal. If we put a good product out there, they will come.”
The first step to that will be putting a competitive team on the ice. In fact, producing a winner is paramount.
“We want to put a winning team on the ice so the fans can appreciate it,” Foxman said. “This is their team.”
And the ultimate goal?
“A championship parade,” Steve said. “I don’t think anyone’s ever thought about that.”