How Paul Konerko's love of hockey paid off

July 21st, 2023

This story was excerpted from Scott Merkin’s White Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

did not attend the Vegas Golden Knights parade and victory celebration after the team claimed the 2023 Stanley Cup championship with a five-game victory over Florida.

Here’s an interesting sidenote: I was in Las Vegas for the extravagant title party on Saturday, June 17, along with my friend Essie, taking advantage of an off-weekend after a three-game White Sox set at Dodger Stadium. But Konerko has much more of a connection to the team than I do.

The White Sox icon, who was a consummate leader and highly productive force during the team’s 2005 World Series title run, has a small investment in a group of nine or 10 holding a larger investment in the Golden Knights. He has been part of this LLC dating back prior to the team’s first season in 2017-18.

“It’s a very small part of it. I’m not saying it was because of me, that I brought hockey to Vegas,” said Konerko during our recent phone conversation. “This was kind of cool and a situation of being involved in the [T-Mobile] Arena, which was a separate deal and is also turning out to be a good deal, and that was kind of it.”

Konerko got involved with the Golden Knights through his friend Darren Blake, who belongs to the same golf club. Through the connections held by Darren and his brother, Dennis, who ran Blake Sports Group among other hockey tie-ins, they had heard buzz that Las Vegas was going to get a franchise and owner Bill Foley was going to be involved.

“When there were rumblings of this expansion team, Blakey came to me and said, ‘I know you like hockey. You played it and you love it and all that. If this ever happens, and there’s a million things that need to happen for this to happen, you think you would be interested?’” Konerko said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, of course. Always listen. That would be cool.’

“That was probably almost two years before they even awarded the franchise to Foley. So, it was kind of like one of those things, yeah, let me know and obviously gathered a bunch of steam and kept going and going and it kind of happened.”

Those who remember Konerko with admiration -- which likely encompasses everyone who came in contact with the six-time All-Star during his 16 years with the White Sox -- recall, among the first baseman’s myriad accomplishments, his 432 home runs and manager Ozzie Guillen naming him team captain. Konerko retired after the ’14 season, had a sculpture at Guaranteed Rate Field unveiled in ’14 and had his jersey No. 14 retired in ’15.

But when he was younger and living on the East Coast, his hockey game was as strong as his baseball game. It wasn’t until Konerko made the varsity high school baseball team in Arizona that he had to choose between the two. Konerko has enjoyed learning about the inner workings of the franchise through his involvement.

He has not heard if members of his group will be receiving a championship ring.

“I’m not expecting one,” Konerko said. “Maybe they will give one ring to the whole group, and we carry it around like the Cup except it’s a little ring and we each get a day with it.”

My interview opened with the parade question for Konerko. He attended the franchise’s first game and was there when they lost in the ’18 Stanley Cup finals to the Capitals. Family commitments took precedence in Arizona this year, and Konerko has been an actual part of a championship parade, as he humorously reminded me. Remember handing the baseball from the final out of the World Series sweep of Houston to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf?

Our 21-minute talk concluded with me asking Konerko if baseball ownership was next on the agenda.

“I don’t know,” said Konerko with a laugh. “You look at every deal, but I’m not out there exploring. If something came across, we’d look at it. The hockey one is a fun one to kind of be around it and watch it and know the inner details.

“At the end of the day, it will be a very good investment. So that’s part of it, too. You like to make money and do smart things with your money. But you never know. Maybe I’ll be like owner/player/manager all at once or something like that.”