Dave Scott grew up in a Cleveland suburb. Rooted for the Indians, the Browns, and the AHL’s Barons. Felt betrayed when the Browns fled to Baltimore.
He’s been entrenched in Philadelphia since 2005 -- at the time, he was Comcast’s chief financial officer -- and, now, his sports love is the Flyers, for whom he serves as governor and chairman.
Scott is not as involved in the day-to-day operation as his mentor, the late, great Ed Snider. But he is in contact every day, sometimes several times, with Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher, and he knows the pulse of the team as well as anybody.
If the Flyers are considering a trade or signing, Fletcher brings it to Scott for final approval.
And with the April 12 trade deadline approaching and the Flyers having needs, especially on defense, Scott wants Fletcher to be aggressive.
“We’re thinking every day on how to improve the team,” he said on Thursday morning, before the Flyers dropped a 5-3 decision that night to Washington. “I spent the day with Chuck yesterday and spent a little time with AV [coach Alain Vigneault], too. We’re looking at the trade deadline as, ‘What can we do?’ I can tell you I’m still committed to investing and making this team as good as we can. I don’t want to hold back. Now is the time to really lean in and whatever we have to work with, we’re going to work with it.”
The Flyers are projected to have a little over $5 million in cap space at the deadline.
Scott doesn’t necessarily believe the Flyers must add a defenseman, but conceded “it would be nice” if they acquired one to finally fill the void left by Matt Niskanen’s retirement.
“With Matt, it was a bit of a surprise and it happened pretty quick,” he said. “I think we all understand that. We brought Gus (Erik Gustafsson) on, and he’s a pretty skilled D-man, but he’s not that kind of player. We’re going to be opportunistic and see what we can do. We’re keeping our eyes open.”
Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm and Columbus’ David Savard are among defensemen in the market who seem to fit the Flyers’ needs.
In a wide-ranging interview, Scott talked about the state of the Flyers, the hope that more fans will be able to attend home games later this season, and the ambitious plans surrounding the Wells Fargo Center and the area adjacent to it.
He also talked with pride about how more women have taken leadership roles in Comcast Spectacor, the parent company of the Flyers and the Wells Fargo Center. Women compose half of the six-member senior executive team for Comcast Spectacor Sports and Entertainment: Valerie Camillo, Blair Listino, and Cindy Stutman.
Getting more women in upper management, Scott said, was “absolutely” one of his goals.
His daughters’ influence
“I don’t know if it’s having five kids and four of them are women, but I’ve always been conscious of that and diversity,” he said. “I think Comcast … really got into it a good 20 years ago. It was always with an eye toward diversity, and as I look at where we’ve come in the last 20 years, it’s clearly embedded in our culture now. It’s a way of life and we’re getting good at it.”
Scott said he got his “baptism by fire” when he dismissed general manager Ron Hextall in 2018, and that he was “thrilled for Ron”-- and, we assume, the lively rivalry between the Flyers and Penguins -- when he was hired recently by Pittsburgh in the same capacity.
“For me, things started to change in 2018 when I had to make some changes and really lean in,” Scott said.
After Hextall was fired, “it rippled through the coaching staff.” About three weeks later, head coach Dave Hakstol was canned.
Scott said the communication among the Flyers’ hockey-operations executives has “never been better” in his eight years with the club than it is now.
“We all ask questions, we all challenge each other appropriately,” he said. “It’s a healthy environment.”
Some of Scott’s other views ...
On slumping goalie Carter Hart: “I thought AV said it best. He’s worked with [Henrik] Lundqvist and [Roberto] Luongo and he’s seen the ups and downs with them. He’s such a young kid. I’m not concerned, long-term.”
After Hart was removed early from an eventual 5-4 shootout win Tuesday over Buffalo, Scott felt compassion for the goalie as he watched him do post-game interviews. “I don’t think anyone can be tougher on themselves than Carter,” Scott said. “I think the fans and everyone appreciate his candor. He’s 22 and he puts himself out there.”
On ESPN’s seven-year deal with the NHL: “I’d have liked to see it stay with the family at NBC Sports, but at the end of the day, you have to look at what’s best for the NHL on a national level.” NBC still may broadcast some games beyond this year, and Scott said the ESPN deal may lead to an increased salary cap for NHL teams.
On what Comcast Spectacor has been able to accomplish locally during the pandemic: “We kept every full-time person employed. I commend Valerie [Camillo, president of business operations for the Flyers and the Wells Fargo Center] for her work. She and her team … did a lot of community outreach” that assisted senior citizens, those in hunger, and small businesses, among other ventures.
On the Flyers’ season: “We got hit pretty hard by COVID, so on the whole, I’m satisfied. .. What I love the most about our team, we’re resilient. It’s a team that figures a way to battle back. There’s certainly not a lack of effort.”
On fans increasing this season at home games: Scott hopes the state and city restrictions, which now allow 15% to attend games, will be increased to 25% later this season. That, he said, would put about 5,000 fans in seats. Even if attendance restrictions were removed entirely, only 5,000 could attend if the six-foot social-distancing rule was still in effect, he said.
On the renovations at the Wells Fargo Center and the property surrounding it: Finishing touches on the building’s renovation will be made on the club and event levels, and the exterior will be modernized.
A state-of-the-art hotel, which could have its groundbreaking this summer, will be added on the adjacent land, “and we’re talking to the city about building high-end apartments in the area,” Scott said. “What you’re seeing around a lot of stadiums is that they’re building a real community, a village, and we are hoping to do that pretty quickly. One of the things I don’t want to do is screw up that beautiful skyline. We spent a lot of money creating all that glass [in the Wells Fargo Center] and it’s beautiful to look at the Philadelphia skyline. We’re looking at some shorter, midsize [apartment] buildings that wouldn’t impact that view.”
Scott visited St. Louis; Atlanta; Kansas City; and Arlington, Texas, to see what is being done around ballparks and arenas.
“High-end apartments have worked out pretty well, and that drives everything -- you can have a little retail, and can support more bars and restaurants,” he said.
That’s the vision he sees in Philly’s sports district.
Right now, his main concern is the Flyers -- who won one postseason series last year -- getting their game in order, earning a playoff berth, and going further than last season.
“It would be great,” he said, “to take another step.”