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J. McConnell; tycoon owned NHL team

JOHN H. MCCONNELL JOHN H. MCCONNELL (ap file)
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Associated Press / April 28, 2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio - John H. McConnell, a steel magnate who was the majority owner of the Columbus Blue Jackets, has died. He was 84.

Mr. McConnell, who was diagnosed with cancer last year, died Friday at a Columbus hospital, said Cathy Lyttle, a spokeswoman with Worthington Industries, a $3 billion-a-year steel processing company that Mr. McConnell started in 1955 with $600 he borrowed against his car.

Mr. McConnell brought major pro sports to Columbus when he led a group of investors that acquired an NHL expansion team. The Blue Jackets began to play in 2000. He called the team his gift to the city.

He was also an early investor in Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew franchise and a former minority owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates and arena football's Columbus Destroyers.

Unlike many owners, "Mr. Mac," as he was called by his coaches and players, was idolized by fans who filled Nationwide Arena to capacity to watch the Blue Jackets.

On opening night, Oct. 9, 2000, Mr. McConnell received a standing ovation that lasted nearly a minute when he slowly moved to center ice on a blue carpet - ever-present cane in hand - to drop the first puck along with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

"The players liked him," Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson said. "I think they saw him more as a father figure and a friend rather than an owner. It was a privilege to work for him."

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