‘It’s been a real privilege’: Guelph Storm ownership sells team to Toronto businessmen

The Ontario Hockey League has announced that its board of governors have approved the sale of the Guelph Storm from its current four-man ownership group to a pair of Toronto businessmen.

The transfer of the ownership to Joel Feldberg and Jeffrey Bly was announced late Friday afternoon and is effective immediately.

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Feldberg and Bly are the president/CEO and senior vice-president respectively of the Global Furniture Group of companies.

“We are eager to get involved with the team, the league and the community of Guelph,” said Feldberg in a statement. “I want to thank the current ownership group for this opportunity. The Storm have always been an integral part of the community and we look forward to carrying out that legacy.”

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Under outgoing owners Rick Gaetz, Scott Walker, Rick Hoyle and John Heeley, the Storm won two OHL championships in 2014 and again in 2019.

“It’s been a real privilege for me,” Gaetz said in an interview. “I’m struggling with it, this has been a very, very, difficult time and there’s a hole this morning that I can’t replace with anything else.”

Gaetz and Hoyle had been with the team since 2006, while Heeley was a member of the Guelph Storm’s original ownership that returned junior hockey to the Royal City in 1991.

Walker, a former NHL player, was named head coach of the Storm in 2010 and then was added to the ownership group two years later.

Gaetz, Walker and Hoyle were majority partners while Heeley had a small minority share.

Both Gaetz and Walker said the sale has nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic which halted business for 18 months. In fact, Walker said none of the full-time staff were laid off during the pandemic.

Gaetz added that the franchise is healthy and strong financially.

“I think there is a bright future right now, we’re very excited about the young men that are coming into the program over the last two years,” he said.

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Walker said the team simply needed new blood with Hoyle approaching the age of 70 and wanting to move on.

“At that point, you don’t pick the exact time you want to sell, you just kind of wait for things to happen,” Walker said.

“Everybody knows Rick Gaetz loves the league and loves the Storm, and wasn’t wanting to move, and neither was I. But I think timing and all that. I would not blame COVID at all.”

Both said they plan on sticking around the team as much as possible. Gaetz’s wife, Barb Underhill, is the team’s skating coach and Walker’s son Cooper plays with the team.

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Walker also added that any rumours that the new owners are going to move the team out of Guelph can be put to bed.

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“I kind of laugh because I think that’s the craziest question ever,” he said. “This team is one of the premier organizations in the Canadian Hockey League, not just the OHL and a big part of it is the community and the city of Guelph.”

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Gaetz also added that the team is in good hands. Both Feldberg and Bly are not well-known in hockey circles, but both have kids who could soon be playing in the OHL, according to Storm play-by-play host Larry Mellott.

Neither of the new owners were available to speak to the media following the news of the sale and details of the deal were not disclosed.

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