"The relatively subdued response to the Devils' threat to leave New Jersey is fitting since the response to their presence for many years was the equivalent of one fan clapping," writes Mathew Purdy in this morning's N.Y. TIMES. He notes that it is ironic that while the Devils' winning has created a "surge in popularity," their "lure" is peaking as the team is "slouching" toward Nashville (Mathew Purdy, N.Y. Times, 6/12). In an interview with John Dellapina in Sunday's N.Y. DAILY NEWS, Devils Owner John McMullen says it was a mistake to move the Devils from Denver to New Jersey. McMullen: "Then-Governor (Brendan) Byrne came down to training camp with me with the Astros and he said, if I could help, he'd be very appreciative if I brought a sports franchise here. But I made a mistake. I shouldn't have done it" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/11). In Sunday's N.Y. TIMES, Joe Lapointe compares the Devils' situation to the movie "Slap Shot" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/11). Kevin Paul Dupont reports in Sunday's BOSTON GLOBE that McMullen, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met recently in New York to discuss the move. Dupont writes the offer is so good in Nashville, the Devils "have to take it" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/11). Dave Anderson writes in Sunday's N.Y. TIMES that McMullen has said a deal is not done yet and that NJ can still keep the Devils. McMullen, to the NJSEA: "You know what Nashville is offering. Give us a proposal." McMullen also notes he won't make any moves until after the Devils' season is completed (Dave Anderson, N.Y. TIMES, 6/11). Saturday's Nashville TENNESSEAN reports that NJ Gov. Christie Whitman asked the Devils' owners to "put a counteroffer on the table" if they are serious about wanting to negotiate a new lease with the NJSEA (TENNESSEAN, 6/10).
Raiders Owner Al Davis and Hollywood Park officials "are finally 'on the verge of a final agreement' that would result in the construction of a new stadium in Inglewood and a permanent home [in L.A.] for the Raiders," according to Bill Plaschke of the L.A. TIMES. Davis was given a final proposal by Hollywood Park officials on Friday, a proposal that they "expect him to accept" (L.A. TIMES, 6/10). The deal, however, is reportedly being "held up" while Davis "seeks assurances from the architect and contractor that the facility will be completed on time" (Tim Trepany, L.A. DAILY NEWS, 6/11). Hollywood Park Chair R.D. Hubbard said that Davis "has to have confidence" that the stadium will be built by 1997. Hubbard: "Basically, the ball is now in the Raiders' court and we will see what their decision is in the next few days" (S.F. EXAMINER, 6/11).
In an extensive interview in Sunday's MIAMI HERALD, Wayne Huizenga, owner of the Marlins, Dolphins, Panthers and Joe Robbie Stadium, said he would like to have the Marlins play in a new park and that the Panthers are a money-losing proposition without a publicly-financed arena. ON THE MARLINS: Huizenga said there are worse baseball parks than Joe Robbie Stadium, "but it isn't as good as the new ones in Denver and Texas and Baltimore. ... JRS limits our revenue. I'm not whining. I'm a big boy. I knew what the rules were when I got in, and you take it or get out, but we shouldn't get blamed for some of the things we do. The Marlins are trying to keep ticket prices down, but our hands are tied with a stadium that should be owned by taxpayers, a stadium not getting the revenue it should from skyboxes and club seats [that revenue goes toward bank loans]. ... Maybe I'm stupid, but I think we could pay down the debt on the stadium, which is $90 million, so a few years out, the Dolphins could carry that lesser debt." ON THE PANTHERS: "As far as hockey goes, it happened so fast, sort of like most things in my life that weren't calculated or planned out, I was just in the right place at the right time. Or, in the case of hockey, the wrong place. ... With the Panthers I just wanted to help, maybe lend somebody a little money or take a little piece of the club. ... Before I knew it, I was all the way in. It happened that way, and I wish it hadn't happened because we are losing our butt." Noting the lack of NHL TV revenues and the Miami Arena's lack of skyboxes, Huizenga said, "When I see and read about this cheapskate Huizenga ought to step up to the plate and build part of the damn [arena] himself, say spend $50 million, well, at the end of the next three years, I will have $100 million in hockey, and people want me to make it $150 million and still [be] losing money? There is no way. That's suicide." While Huizenga gave a firm "no" when asked if he would ever sell the Marlins or Dolphins, he said only "I don't know" when posed with the same question about the Panthers (MIAMI HERALD, 6/11).
A group of Winnipeg businessmen calling themselves Spirit of Manitoba Inc. made a formal offer to buy the Jets Friday. The offer reportedly "hinges" on a few points: The signature of the current owners, the approval of the NHL, about $20M more in private-sector contributions, and a Revenue Canada ruling that would make some contributions tax deductible. Jets Owner Barry Shenkarow is reportedly "disappointed the offer did not appear to correspond to the terms of negotiation agreed to earlier." Terms of the deal include the Spirit group paying Shenkarow and his partners more than $32M in cash and granting them another $22M in equity in the new ownership group. The current owners would receive two seats on a new 10-member board, and the board would decide whether Shenkarow "gets his wish to stay on as president." Spirit, formerly know as Manitoba Entertainment Complex, is led by Izzy Asper of CanWest Global Communications (CP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 6/10). In Winnipeg, Nick Martin reports the city will "refuse to pay" any further Jets' losses if Shenkarow turns down the latest offer. A "closed-door council session" has been called by Winnipeg Mayor Susan Thompson for today to hear from the Spirit group, Winnipeg Enterprises, the city's auditors and senior administrators (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 6/10). But Scott Taylor writes that the Spirit deal is "not an offer to purchase. It is only an option to purchase as long as certain criteria are met and that criteria is completely out of the hands of the vendor ... As it stands, this is a horrible deal for the seller" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 6/11).