In the last few days, Steelback Brewery CEO Frank D’Angelo and Ottawa 67’s owner Jeff Hunt have become fast friends and very informally chatted about the possibility of joining forces to resurrect their desires of bringing a CFL team back to the nation’s capital.
The league is currently negotiating with only one group – a primarily U.S.-based consortium headed by Bill Palmer – but it appears those talks have slowed to a standstill.
A conversation between D’Angelo and Hunt came about last weekend, when the Toronto-bred food and beverage entrepreneur visited Ottawa to face pucks in a charity shootout at a 67’s game.
Hunt and D’Angelo wound up hanging out together both Friday night and all day Saturday, and anyone who saw the two would have noticed they had the chemistry of long-time pals.
Hunt admitted yesterday he could also see them becoming business partners one day.
“We got along really well … I like the guy,” Hunt, who said he didn’t really know D’Angelo before the weekend, said yesterday. "Yes, I think we could work together.
"We both wanted to be involved in the CFL and we were both disappointed when we didn’t get our wish. Of course we talked about football … how could we not?
“Is it to much to think we could together to pursue a team? No. But we just had very brief and casual conversation. We would have to have more serious discussions before I would feel ready to call the CFL. And it might already be too late.”
D’Angelo was the first to express interest in reviving the Renegades – shortly after they were pronounced dead by the CFL in the 2006 offseason – and he had, as he still would, the financial backing of Dr. Barry Sherman, a billionaire pharmacist.
Hunt, who has an impeccable reputation in the local community, was later signed up to be the frontman for Golden Gate Capital Corporation. But when the founder of that Toronto financial services company took ill, that bid was discontinued and Hunt was left with a desire, but no backer.
Shortly thereafter, the colorful D’Angelo was told by the league that it was going to concentrate its efforts solely on the Palmer group – effectively snubbing the first person to step forward and volunteer help in the rescue attempt.
D’Angelo, a self-made millionaire, kept to himself any hurt or disappointment over being shunned. Publicly, he said he understood the league’s decision and wished the CFL well. But it had to have bothered him.
CHANTED HIS NAME
A very personable and proud Canadian, D’Angelo was beaming as he was approached by people in the Byward Market Friday, including a group of young men who started chanting his name when he walked into the Heart and Crown.
He is a bona fide celebrity, which may not have exactly worked in his favour in dealings with the CFL.
Recently, D’Angelo has gone on the record saying he would be open to talking with the league about reopening discussions or any possible future endeavors, but CFL officials were going to have to approach him this time.
Skeptics will say that’s unlikely, that the league steered away from D’Angelo because of his flamboyant nature. The stuffed shirts in the CFL don’t want their owners singing in their bands (never mind that its usually at charitable functions) or signing up disgraced sprinter Ben Johnson to do commercials for an energy drink called Cheetah.
“Sometimes flamboyant is misunderstood,” said Hunt. "I think there was a hypersensitivity in this city, as it pertains to football, because of the Lonie Glieberman legacy.
"But I don’t see Frank and Lonie having very much in common. They’re different people.
"I think in marketing Cheetah, without getting into any moralities about that … you have to admit it was an effective commercial.
"Now, whether Frank would get Ben Johnson to do another commercial, I don’t know.
GET PRODUCT NOTICED
“But everyone knows the purpose of a commercial is to get your product noticed, and he certainly did that.”
After being turned down by the CFL, D’Angelo expressed interest in buying the Pittsburgh Penguins. When that plan didn’t come to fruition, he stepped back before charging forward hard.
In a multi-million dollar, five-year deal, D’Angelo recently secured the title sponsorship of Ontario’s largest summer sports event. The Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto will be held July 6-8.
“I think with the Steelback Grand Prix, Frank and his brewery have risen to another level when it comes to their profile in sports and corporate branding,” said Hunt. “That was a big-league manoeuvre.”
Just as talking to Mutt and Jeff would be a good move by the CFL.