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"WHITE KNIGHT" ALEXANDER PUTS NHL OILERS DEAL ON HOLD
Published November 5, 1997
Les Alexander's offer to buy the NHL Oilers "was left in doubt after he left Peter Pocklington standing alone Tuesday to face a much publicized news conference about their deal," according to Jac MacDonald of the EDMONTON JOURNAL. Pocklington said that Alexander stayed away because of "tough words he heard at a Monday meeting with Mayor Bill Smith and other city officials about preserving the location agreement that keeps the Oilers in town until 2004." Pocklington said "without question" he painted a fair picture of the Oilers situation to Alexander. Pocklington: "He has seen all the documents, all the pros and cons, exactly what the local buyers have seen." Alexander told Houston's KTRH radio station: "The city, Economic Development Edmonton and Northlands Park had to agree to certain conditions and without those conditions being met, we cannot buy the team." MacDonald reports that those conditions "included dropping the location agreement and turning over" the C$2.8M annual ticket surcharge to the team (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 11/5). Alexander, on Edmonton officials: "I was led to believe that they were ready to address some of the larger issues, that they would welcome me with open arms as the savior of the team. And the complete reverse was true. They were, to say the least, hostile. Everything I was told was now completely reversed" (Neil Hohlfeld, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/5). More Alexander: "My idea was to come here, be a white knight and keep the team in Edmonton" (Terry Jones, EDMONTON SUN, 11/5). REAX: In Toronto, Al Strachan writes that if Edmonton agrees to modify the location clause, "it opens the door for an agreement that will give the Oilers an excellent chance of survival for the foreseeable future. But if the city refuses, the outlook becomes bleak. Unless local buyers can be found ... Pocklington will then sell the team to the highest bidder. And that bidder will probably move the team to the United States" (TORONTO SUN, 11/5). An EDMONTON, JOURNAL editorial: "Alexander doesn't even seem interested in explaining why this deal would be good for Edmonton, or in sitting down and negotiating with the city. He expects Edmonton to buy a pig in a poke" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 11/5). An EDMONTON SUN editorial: "The refusal of Edmonton's leaders to renege on the location agreement ... looks smart from any perspective" (EDMONTON SUN, 11/5).