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NHL EXPANSION PRESENTATIONS TO CONCLUDE TODAY
Published January 14, 1997
The NHL Board of Governors' Executive Committee on Monday heard presentations from six expansion franchise applicants, including three from Houston, and will hear five more today, according to NEWSDAY's Jim Smith. Presentations today will conclude the two-day meetings (NEWSDAY, 1/14). COLUMBUS: Chiefs Chair Lamar Hunt, part of a group from Columbus, OH, was "quietly elegant," according to Al Strachan of the TORONTO SUN. Strachan: "It's quite possible that, given his sporting connections, he has an inside track so far as the NHL's intentions are concerned" (TORONTO SUN, 1/14). Hunt: "Columbus compares favorably with Kansas City in many areas and the Chiefs just led the NFL in attendance for the third straight year" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/14). HAMILTON: The city of Hamilton tried to "woo the NHL by pointing to a population base of six million that includes most of the western edge of Metropolitan Toronto," according to Doug Smith of the CANADIAN PRESS. The group also "met its ... biggest drawbacks head on," as Mayor Bob Morrow said while the city would be "willing and able to own the team for as long as necessary," there are "five people interested in purchasing the franchise" (CP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/14). Morrow also said Hamilton should not have to compensate either the Sabres or Maple Leafs for "territorial infringement," according to Damien Cox of the TORONTO STAR. Cost estimates of paying off the teams "have run as high as" $50M, and it is "believed both franchises would insist on some kind of compensation" (TORONTO STAR, 1/14). In Toronto, Al Strachan writes Hamilton "gave it their best shot, making a passionate, reasonable, hockey-oriented plea." Strachan: "If those governors were reasonable or hockey-oriented or even passionate about anything other than money, Hamilton might have a chance of winning a franchise. But that's not the case" (TORONTO SUN, 1/14). HOUSTON: The three groups representing Houston made their case and "all of them said the league raised questions concerning if and when an arena would be built," according to Neil Hohlfeld of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Rockets Owner Les Alexander: "The thing they (the NHL) seemed most interested in was the building. They wanted to know when it would be built" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/14). The "makeup" of IHL Aeros Owner Chuck Watson's bid "received a huge financial boost" when Robert McNair, Founder & CEO of Cogen Technologies, became "an equal partner in the venture with Watson." The combination of Watson and McNair gives the group "a huge bankroll, believed to be as much" as $1.3B (Neil Hohlfeld, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/14). ST. PAUL: Although St. Paul made its presentation Monday, "courting the Hartford Whalers still looked like their best chance to reclaim a team," according to Curt Brown of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. MN Gov. Arne Carlson and St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman reportedly had dinner with Whalers Owner Peter Karmanos (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/14). In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman notes the city "will never get a team unless it builds a new arena." The NHL would "prefer" a team to play in the Target Center, but T- Wolves Owner Glen Taylor would ask the city to lift the $3M in "real estate taxes he is currently paying and make it possible for both the Wolves and a hockey team to make it financially" in the arena (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/13). OTHER CITIES: Felix Sabates representing Raleigh, NC, and Hornets Owner George Shinn, backing a bid from Hampton Roads, VA, make presentations today. The CHARLOTTE OBSERVER's Rick Bonnell: "Both look like long shots" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/14)....TBS will make its presentation today. The ATLANTA CONSTITUTION's Henry Unger notes the Atlanta bid was described Monday by competing bidders and league observers as a "Shoo-in. Odds-on favorite. The upper hand" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/15)....Also scheduled today are presentations from Nashville and Oklahoma City, OK (Frank Litsky, N.Y. TIMES, 1/14).