The Devils, who have been conducting an audit of the NJSEA's books, may be "seeking to replace the NJSEA and become the [Brendan Byrne] Arena's managing agent," according to this morning's N.Y. POST. Larry Brooks reports that a December 22 letter sent by the NJSEA during the NHL lockout -- called "an attempt to suspend the team's lease" in a recent news report -- "has prompted the audit and intensive negotiations with Nashville as a site for franchise relocation." Brooks writes that "there is reason to believe that shared revenue -- specifically from suite sales -- is at the center of the notice. The Devils' lease with the NJSEA includes a mutual 'hold-harmless' clause regarding labor disputes." Brooks, on the leverage the team may have: "If the Sports Authority did indeed breach the lease, if the Dec. 22 notice becomes the 'smoking gun,' the Devils may not only be in control of the agenda but on their way to control of the Arena, as well" (N.Y. POST, 5/25). THE RED-JERSIED STEPCHILD: In a report on the Devils' finances, Richard Sandomir calls the team "hockey's local stepchild to the Rangers ... in terms of attendance, attention and corporate cache." The team has also made marketing mistakes by selling themselves as a New York rather than a New Jersey team, according to Mike McCall, Devils Head of Marketing and Sales. McCall: "[Team Owner John] McMullen said he felt he was buying a team in the Big Apple. That's proved not to be the case. North Central Jersey is our primary area" (N.Y. TIMES. 5/25).
Some close to the Jets negotiations "are concerned" that Owner Barry Shenkarow may be "trying to put off signing the final agreement" to sell 42% of the team to a local group "in hopes of upping the ante," according to this morning's WINNIPEG FREE PRESS. John Douglas reports that The Spirit of Manitoba, Inc., the company created by the Manitoba Entertainment Complex and other local investors, has met Shenkarow's previous demands, but that Shenkarow wants "a memorandum of understanding" instead of a purchase and sale agreement. A source close to the deal told Douglas "an attempt to raise the price was the only reason he could think of for the delay" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/25).
Montreal's LA PRESSE, Quebec City's LE SOLIEL, LE JOURNAL DE QUEBEC, the DENVER POST, and Denver's CBS Affiliate all report that the Nordiques have been sold to Comsat Video Enterprises, owner of the Nuggets. According to the POST and LE PRESSE, Nords President Marcel Aubut flew to Comsat's Bethesda, MD, HQs yesterday, "where he completed the deal." The POST reports Aubut told a close friend: "I had to sell it, that's it." Denver's KMGH-CBS reported yesterday that the deal was "imminent," and an announcement coming as soon as today, according to the POST (CANADIAN PRESS, 5/25). LE PRESSE reports that the deal is worth $75M, and "the only details left to be worked out have no potential to torpedo the agreement" (TORONTO SUN, 5/25). JUST FOR SHOW? Aubut is to meet today with Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau in what is being called "a last-ditch effort" to keep the team in Quebec. LE SOLIEL says the meeting will be "for show only" (TORONTO SUN, 5/25). FIRST CLASS OR COACH? Yesterday's ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS reported that Comsat's President Charlie Lyons and Media Relations Dir Paul Jacobson were booked on a flight this afternoon from the Washington area to Denver. The NEWS also reported that there was "plausible speculation" that a news conference to announce the sale could be held as soon as tomorrow (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/24). HO-HUM: Nordiques spokesperson Jean Martineau, "frustrated" at the lack of progress in negotiations with Quebec, said yesterday that Provincial Negotiator Andre Joli-Coeur "wouldn't have a heart attack if the Nordiques moved" (CP/OTTAWA CITIZEN, 5/25). REALIGNMENT: The DENVER POST reports the team would be moved to the Western Conference's Central Division, with Toronto moved to the Eastern Conference (DENVER POST, 5/25).