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MAY DAY DEADLINE MEANS "MAYDAY, MAYDAY!" FOR CRASHING JETS
Published May 1, 1995
Talks to keep the Jets in Winnipeg "continued during the weekend but no one appeared especially optimistic a deal could be salvaged by midnight tonight -- the deadline given by Jets owners to complete an ownership transfer and arena deal," according to this morning's Toronto GLOBE & MAIL. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman arrived in Winnipeg over the weekend with a police escort after fans "responded angrily" to reports that a deal between Jets Owner Barry Shenkarow and the Manitoba Entertainment Complex, a local ownership group seeking majority interest in the team and a new arena, was "scuttled" due to league-imposed conditions. That leaves it up to Shenkarow "to cut a last-minute deal with government and other private interests in an effort to gain financing for a new hockey arena." Bettman met with Shenkarow, Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon, federal Human Resources Minister Lloyd Axworthy, Winnipeg Mayor Susan Thompson and local business leaders, after which officials "were pinning their hopes" on Axworthy's ability to convince the federal government to consider a C$30M contribution toward the arena and a C$16M operating loan for the team (David Roberts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/1). CAN IT BE DONE? MEC Chair John Loewen: "Everyone is feeling much better about the short- and medium-term future of the team -- it's the longer-term prospects that we are trying to deal with now" (CANADIAN PRESS, 5/1). BARRY, BARRY, HE'S OUR MAN: If there is a deal, according to Scott Taylor and John Douglas of the WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, "it will be with Shenkarow's cooperation. The ownership will not be changing; it will be expanding, with Shenkarow likely staying on as the club's governor to the NHL." Government loans of C$44M -- C$14M each from the province and the city and C$16M from Ottawa -- will reduce MEC's annual interest payments on the building from C$6M to about C$2.5M (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/1). MEC's Bob Silver: "The NHL wants to see leadership, someone who wants to play hockey. ... We need a player and Barry Shenkarow knows the hockey game at the corporate level better than anyone in Winnipeg" (John Douglas, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 4/29). FAX FIGHT: The NHL released a copy of the April 26 letter from NHL Senior VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash to the MEC, in response to "erroneous reports" that the NHL's conditions were new to the group. The release notes that the conditions were first laid out in an April 13 meeting between Pash and the MEC (NHL). In Winnipeg, Scott Taylor writes that Bettman was "ravaged" by Loewen and Thompson for trying to make sure that MEC has enough money to buy the team, build the arena and operate both for 10 years. "There is still some question today as to whether the MEC's ownership group is capable of doing that and it's not Bettman's fault" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 4/29). POINTS SOUTH, AND WEST? Should the Jets move, the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE reports United Healthcare Corp. Founder and former CEO Richard Burke emerged as the "first serious bidder" to bring the team to the Twin Cities. Any new hockey owner in MN will have to negotiate a lease with T-Wolves Owner Glen Taylor and Ogden Corp., which manages the Target Center. Taylor, who said he has not aligned with any possible MN groups, was open to the idea of joining an NHL ownership group. Other possible bidders: A group led by former Nuggest President Tim Lieweke; the Naegele family, owners of a billboard advertising "empire"; and stockbroker Ed Villaume (Jay Weiner, Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/29). IHL Knights President Jay Adler denied reports that the Jets were headed to Atlanta, citing his exclusive lease with The Omni for '95-96. According to Louis Mayeaux of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, Turner Broadcasting "would like an NHL team for Atlanta, but not before a new arena is built to replace the Omni" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 4/28). ESPN's Linda Cohn reported that if the Jets move, "word is the league would like it to stay West. Portland and Phoenix among the sites mentioned." Cohn reported that Minnesota "may not have deep enough pockets to satisfy the NHL" ("SportsCenter," 4/28).