Wait … Michael Bublé owns a hockey team?


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If you have ever been curious about what it’s like to be Michael Bublé on Valentine’s Day … it’s actually quite different than what you might think.

He’s by himself, hanging out in the quiet part of a 20,000-seat arena in Cologne, Germany, wearing a Simpsons T-shirt while holding a football signed by Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Bublé is thousands of miles away from his wife, who is with her family in Argentina. Because that is what comes with being a crooner who sings love songs. It only makes sense to sing those songs in front of thousands of people on Valentine’s Day.

So how does Bublé pass the time before his concert? Simple, he picks up the phone to talk about his other love in this world: hockey.

“Man, I even love the old subway sandwiches they used to serve at the old Pacific Coliseum,” said Bublé, who grew up a Vancouver Canucks fan. “It’s the yellow jerseys that the Canucks or the L.A. Kings used to wear. It’s like I see the jerseys now that they brought back, and it just brings it all right back. The happiest parts of my childhood were watching and listening.”

Yes, the man who is the living embodiment of what it means to be romantic is exactly that when it comes to talking about hockey. Listening to Canucks play-by-play announcer Jim Robson was a foundational piece of his childhood.

Bublé continues to speak like that when talking about what it means to be a co-owner of the Vancouver Giants. Yes, you read that right. International recording artist and four-time Grammy winner Michael Bublé is the co-owner of his hometown Vancouver Giants, the same junior team that sent Bowen Byram, Evander Kane, Brendan Gallagher and Milan Lucic, among others, to the NHL.

How did he get into ownership? What is it like to be a team that is partially owned by a pop star? How involved is Bublé? And given that he already has ownership in one hockey team, has he ever thought about trying to own an NHL team someday?

“I was thrilled because [Giants majority owner Ron Toigo] and I are so close. I thought so much of Ron and his family,” Bublé said. “I tell people, ‘I don’t invest in things, I invest in people.’ So when Ron came to me, my first thought was it was incredibly humbling to even be asked.”

Toigo said he met Bublé through a mutual friend, Bruce Allen, who is Bublé’s agent. Toigo was part of the committee when British Columbia hosted the IIHF World Junior Championships in 2006, and the group was looking for a dinner party entertainer.

Getting Bublé came with some cache. He was already four albums into his career, and his most recent album, “It’s Time,” eventually went triple platinum. Bublé was then invited to attend every WJC game, which allowed him to develop a friendship with Toigo.

A few years had passed when one of the Giants’ co-owners decided to sell his stake, and it prompted Toigo to see if Bublé was interested. That was December 2008, and Bublé along with his father, Lewis, have been involved with the team ever since.

“He knows more about the game than probably a lot of people think he does,” Toigo said. “He pays attention to what the players are doing. With our players, when we are in the playoffs, he has players over to his place between series. He has an ice rink at his house. He and his kids have gone skating with the players, and that is how he gets to know them.”

Just wait. There’s more.

GIANTS GENERAL MANAGER Barclay Parneta had just accepted the job when he received a text message from a random phone number. The message read, “Hey! It’s Michael Bublé! I’ve heard a lot of great things about you from Ron and I am looking forward to working with you and I can’t wait to get the Giants into the Memorial Cup!”

Parneta, who was hired in 2018, admitted that he shared the moment with his wife when it happened because how often does something like this happen?

“I was like, ‘Holy crap. This is awesome,'” he said.

Parneta said Bublé’s involvement goes beyond that of an owner who sits in his suite during games, writes checks and goes to business meetings regarding the club’s affairs.

One of Parneta’s duties is to meet with prospective players and their parents in the event they someday play for the Giants. What better way to show parents that their children could play for a team that cares than by talking to Michael Bublé?

No, really. Bublé will actually get on the phone or jump on a videoconference with the rest of the front office to help answer any potential questions a parent or player might have about the Giants. Parneta said in most cases, it is the parents who recognize him first, then it’s the players.

But the ones who do are prone to do a double take while asking, ‘Is that Michael Bublé?’

Yes, child, that is Michael Bublé.

Parneta shared the story of one particular videoconference with the parents of a player they had just drafted. The player’s mom said in passing that she loved Bublé and was then stunned to see him appear on the screen.

“I could phone him and say we want to set up something and need you to hop on a call. He’s never said, ‘No,'” Parneta said. “He’s done it a number of times. He wants this to be successful. When he comes to games, he comes to the dressing room and talks to the boys. He’s not a passenger. He loves hockey. Loves, loves, loves hockey. If you asked him if he could trade his fame and fortune to play in the NHL, he would do it.”

Parnetta added that Bublé also did a motivational video session with coaches and players during the early stages of the pandemic. It was something he did for nurses — with the most prominent example coming in January 2022 when Bublé surprised a Kansas City nurse whose essay led to her meeting Bublé over video. Parnetta said Bublé has also done something similar with Team Canada.

PICTURE THIS. You’re at a junior hockey team’s Christmas party singing carols in front of 80 people, and one of them is Michael Bublé. That might seem like the right time to stop singing and go hide in a corner. It’s actually the opposite when Bublé is around. He’s the one going around the room encouraging everyone to sing so it’s not just one person doing it alone.

Even though singing by himself in front of thousands of people is literally what he does for a living.

Parneta described Bublé as someone who is part maestro and part monitor when those Christmas parties are happening. Bublé sees when people are singing, he knows when they are fake-singing, and he doesn’t care if they sound bad or good as long as they are participating in the experience.

“He is the one encouraging everyone to sing and to get more people singing along,” Parneta said. “Some of the older people may step back and watch, but the first time witnessing it, it was super cool and amazing to see a guy feel that comfortable. … I mouth the words very well without much coming out!”

Both Parneta and Toigo also discussed Bublé’s charitable nature. Toigo said Bublé purchases a suite for every Giants home game and donates it to a local children’s hospital so it can give it to a family with a loved one who is undergoing treatment.

“He does a lot of things that he’s not pounding his chest over, and he does it because it is the right thing to do,” Toigo said. “There have been shows when he’ll find out someone else is in trouble and will donate the entire gate to them. I don’t think his manager is too crazy about it. He’s just a very giving guy and extremely passionate about society in general. He’s like that everywhere he goes, not just in Vancouver.”

For those wondering, the Giants do play Bublé’s music at home games. No, they are not contractually obligated to do so, Toigo says with a laugh.

BUBLÉ SAID HIS expectation upon joining the Giants’ ownership group was to create the sort of environment that would let players and their families know that Vancouver is an attractive place to play.

This is the part of the conversation in which Bublé gets deep. He opens up about how a lot of his friends are athletes because of the similarities in their professions. Bublé’s point is that whether you are an athlete or a singer, there is an expectation that comes with the pressure of always being at your best for the thousands of people who pay money to watch.

Mental health is something he talks about with his athlete friends. Sure, it’s important to stay in great physical shape. But the conversations about mental health are just as vital. He said it is about finding ways to believe in yourself even when you’re struggling or feeling insecure about your performance.

“I knew as someone who understood how a lot of these people felt, I felt like I could be there to lift them up if they needed it,” Bublé said. “Sometimes, it’s about bringing context: ‘Don’t be so down on yourself, man. You’re in a position millions of kids would die to be in. I know it’s hard to be appreciative of that. But I want you to know that as tough as it is, try to enjoy this moment because it is a great moment. You’re doing something that people dream about doing.'”

Bublé said this is something he does with the Giants or his friends who play in the NBA, NFL or NHL.

He said there are times they even do that for him.

“I don’t give a s— if you’re Tom Brady or you’re Ed Sheeran. We all go through peaks and valleys,” Bublé said. “It’s easy to lose your confidence, and it is easy for things to stop being fun. Part of me being involved at this level of the game was understanding that, and I hope that I could articulate it well enough.

“It sounds very Ted Lasso, but the environment is very important and that kind of support lets guys understand that you understand them.”

Bublé said that it means a lot knowing he has had a chance to be part of a Giants player’s journey whether they play in the NHL, AHL or never play a single minute of professional hockey. One of his all-time favorite moments as an owner was when Byram was selected fourth overall at the 2019 NHL draft by the Colorado Avalanche.

The Giants have had several players get drafted, and Byram was one of only five Giants to ever go in the first round. Bublé watched Byram’s interview. He recalled how Byram thanked his mom and dad and the rest of his family and friends. Then he thanked Toigo for caring about him and making sure he had all the things he needed to get to this stage in his life.

“I called up Ron and said, ‘Ron, that is a beautiful testament to how far and above you go,'” Bublé said. “He’s a special guy. He does care. That’s what my dad is like, too. This means so much to my dad, too. We’re so proud of our city and our community, and it’s pretty thrilling to be part of this. I love the game. … There are amazing codes in this game of hockey. In so many sports where we’ve lost those codes, we’ve not lost them in hockey, thank God.”

GIVEN HOW MUCH he loves the game and wants to be involved, has Bublé ever explored the idea of NHL ownership?

Toigo said Bublé is really good friends with another Vancouver native, Ryan Reynolds, who is part of a group that wants to purchase the Ottawa Senators.

So Michael, anything you want to share? Like, maybe you’re going to join forces with Deadpool, be a part owner of the Senators and perform during intermissions every now and again?

“No, it hasn’t been a conversation,” Bublé said. “I think it hasn’t been because No. 1, I don’t know if I would want to go there.”

Go there? As in NHL ownership?

“No. NHL ownership is fine, but the Ottawa Senators aren’t my team,” Bublé said. “I think it’s Canucks or bust. I really do. That may never, ever happen. The truth is, it’s not like I have some serious ambition where I’ve ever really truly put it out there. I mean, who wouldn’t want to own a team?”

Bublé said he once had a long talk with longtime NHL great and Hockey Hall of Famer Phil Esposito about owning a team. Bublé said there were “a bunch of management groups,” that came to him and he got “very close” to getting involved in NHL ownership.

“He said to me, ‘Are you really passionate about these other teams?'” Bublé said. “I said, ‘Not really. But I’d love to be a part of the culture. I love hockey so much.’ He said, ‘Do you have a billion dollars?’ I said, ‘I do not.’ He then said, ‘Then, get the f— out of there!'”

Then Bublé asks a question.

“But can I tell you what I think about Ryan?” he asks. “I think the NHL could use a guy like Ryan. I think he’s good for the game. Ryan’s a good guy. He’s got an incredible personality. He brings a great energy. He’ll bring so much excitement to a hockey team that’s going to be a good hockey team and to a city that is a great city. I just think it’s great for the game and I think we need more personalities like that. Who knows? One day, Celine Dion may own the Montreal Canadiens.”

Has Bublé ever talked to the Aquilini family, the owners of the Canucks, about getting involved in ownership?

“No, never,” Bublé said. “To be honest, I am friends with all those guys. But I would never. We just have more fun shooting the s—, hanging out and watching the games. I don’t know if I have much time yet in my life.

“Dude, all I do is work. I have four kids and I wouldn’t know where to fit it to be honest with you. But in the future? Who knows. I said I’d never have kids, and now I have four.”

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