The Yormark brothers – Florida Panthers President Michael and New Jersey Nets CEO Brett – haven’t been having an easy year.
The identical twin brothers, who share an exceedingly energetic work ethic, long hours and drive to almost “out-market” each other, have lately been overseeing struggling franchises.
(Here’s the piece I wrote about them in 2006; see photo of them as kids and more recently as executives visiting each other at BankAtlantic Center).
There’s the losing: the Nets are a dismal 8-63. The Panthers are again fighting for a playoff spot – they haven’t made the playoffs since 2000 and if they miss the postseason again this year, they’ll tie the NHL record for longest playoff drought.
Michael navigated a change in the Panthers’ majority ownership from Alan Cohen to co-general partners Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel, which came after lengthy negotiations with a public company that considered purchasing the team. He’s led Panthers’ parent company Sunrise Sports & Entertainment’s request to Broward County to restructure the company’s debt service payments on BankAtlantic Center to get some financial relief, but has yet to get a response. The plans for an entertainment district around the arena are also on hold.
Last weekend, Michael did help unveil the team’s brand new “Den of Honor” – a museum of South Florida’s hockey history on the concourse at BankAtlantic Center. The area of display cases that celebrates youth and high school hockey all through the development and history of the Panthers drew raves, but it must be at least somewhat humbling to know your team’s biggest stars are from the 1990s and grandest moment came in making it to the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals.
Brett has weathered the very public change in architects for the Nets’ planned Brooklyn arena from the world-renowned Frank Gehry to Ellerbe Beckett; difficult discussions to move the Nets on an interim basis to the Prudential Center in Newark from the Meadowlands; and continued delays on the Brooklyn project. Construction of the new arena did finally begin earlier this month.
Add in the difficulty of trying to sell a really poorly performing team, and perhaps that’s what upset the usually jovial Brett Monday night, when he snapped at a fan wearing a paper bag over his head during the Nets-Miami Heat game at the Meadowlands. Read about the incident here.
When he did finally respond, Brett downplayed the incident.
But at least he has a sense of humor.
Fans who brought brown paper bags to Wednesday's game could swap them for a Nets bag filled with team souvenirs, including a poster, trading cards and a note from Brett, reading “Thanks for letting us see your face.” Brett included his email address, too.
No word from his brother on the incident.