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HARTFORD MAKES ONE FINAL PLAY TO SAVE THE WHALE
Published April 1, 1997
A group of Hartford business and political leaders "want to broker an agreement" with the Whalers to keep the team in a new arena in Hartford, according to Mike Swift of the HARTFORD COURANT. The group is "reaching out" to Owner Peter Karmanos "with a carrot and a rope" to bring him back to the bargaining table with CT Gov. John Rowland. The group is asking the Rowland Administration to delay final approval of the team's $20.5M exit agreement with the state and is offering the team $20M in support from the city. Swift writes that Karmanos "apparently did not understand the full value of the city's offer" when he rejected the state's final bid last week. Whalers President Jim Rutherford: "I hope that the change in the offer is enough to make this deal work." Also, Brian Foley, owner of the CBA Connecticut Pride, said he would head a group to buy the Whalers if operating losses "can be cut" to $6M annually. They are now estimated at $15M/year (HARTFORD COURANT, 4/1). REAX: Hartford Mayor Michael Peters, who is leading the effort at mediation: "I gotta give a damn. I'm the mayor" (Tom Puleo, HARTFORD COURANT, 4/1). An editorial in Friday's COURANT called Karmanos' "cavalier fatalism about what to the Hartford region is a major economic blow was galling." It also wrote that Rowland's negotiations with Karmanos "seemed lethargic from the outset. His tone never reflected the urgency of the situation" (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/28). COURANT sports columnist Jeff Jacobs gave two reasons the Whalers failed: a history of poor performance and the fact that "distant fiefdoms in our state don't give a hoot about" the team (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/29). The COURANT's Swift & Keating wrote an extensive page-one piece Sunday entitled "Anatomy Of A Deal That Didn't Happen" (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/30). In N.Y., Frank Brown wrote "just about everybody" did their "best" to keep the team in Hartford. Brown: "It didn't work out, and that's that. You can't keep throwing good money after bad, so goodbye" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/28). SUITORS: ESPN's Keith Olbermann: "Remember hockey fans, this team could be yours, if -- the price is right" ("SportsCenter," 3/27). Karmanos, on potential new homes for the Whalers: "Columbus is in it big time. I like Columbus." He also said St. Paul, MN, and Raleigh-Durham, NC, "are at the top of his list" (Kevin Allen, USA TODAY, 3/28). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote that "insiders say" that Las Vegas "is a Karmanos favorite" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/30). In MN, Gov. Arne Carlson said he would support bonds to renovate the St. Paul Civic Center in an effort to lure the team (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/28).