SBD/Issue 162/Franchises

Thrashers Deny Report Of Sale, Move To Hamilton, Ontario

Waddell Says Thrashers Are
Not A Moveable Franchise
Thrashers Exec VP & GM Don Waddell said there is “no truth” to a report that a Vancouver-based group is interested in buying the franchise and moving it to Hamilton, Ontario, according to Chris Vivlamore of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. Waddell: “We are not a moveable franchise. I have talked to our owners, and no one has had contact with any group.” Waddell “cited several reasons the Thrashers won’t move.” Atlanta Spirit, which owns the team, is “currently involved in litigation with co-owner Steve Belkin that must be resolved.” Also, the naming rights to Philips Arena, home to the Thrashers and Hawks, are “tied to it housing both an NHL and NBA franchise.” In addition, Waddell indicated that Atlanta Spirit “signed a commitment letter to the league to keep the team in Atlanta a specified number of years” (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 5/10). In Hamilton, Peters & Powell reported a Vancouver-based group believed to be led by developer Tom Gaglardi is “interested in relocating the financially troubled” Thrashers to Hamilton. Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger is “expected to meet” with the group today. The group is Hamilton’s “second NHL suitor,” as RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie has had discussions with the city to move the Coyotes to Copps Coliseum if he is successful in purchasing the team. There are “rumours of as many as five groups looking at Hamilton” for an NHL team. A source said that Gaglardi “will argue his proposal has more NHL governor support than Balsillie’s, which could be a convincing selling point for Hamilton politicians.” Eisenberger said that he “expects by Tuesday the city should have a ‘clear picture’ of its NHL strategy.” That is “just one day before a May 13 deadline for sealing a deal to lock up Copps Coliseum requested by Balsillie.” Eisenberger: “By ... Tuesday we will have a clearer picture of where we are. We’re in the middle of discussions with Mr. Balsillie and his group and I will be meeting with the second group. We need to understand their intentions. It’s fair to say I will be talking to that second group.” Peters & Powell wrote Balsillie is “said to be quite upset that Hamilton is considering a second NHL relocation proposal” (HAMILTON SPECTATOR, 5/9).

CLOSING IN ON A DEAL: Eisenberger said that he "expects Hamilton to lock up an arena deal with [Balsillie] this week, saying [Balsillie] is the only one with a 'bona fide proposal' before the city." Eisenberger added that he is "communicating with an anonymous second suitor, but he doesn't expect those talks will deter the city from reaching an agreement with Balsillie" (HAMILTON SPECTATOR, 5/11). Eisenberger yesterday on CTV’s “Question Period” said, “I’m not having a personal meeting with anyone other than Mr. Balsillie’s group” (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/11). The GLOBE & MAIL’s David Shoalts wrote Gaglardi and former Oilers Owner Nelson Skalbania, who reportedly is part of the group looking to move the Thrashers to Hamilton, “may not prove to be any more popular with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL’s owners than Balsillie.” Gaglardi “lost a nasty court fight” with Canucks Owner Francesco Aquilini over the purchase of that team in ’04 (GLOBEANDMAIL.com, 5/9).

No Sign Of Agreement Between Coyotes,
NHL After Team's Chapter 11 Filing
COURT BATTLE: In Toronto, Kevin McGran notes there “was no sign of an agreement” over the weekend between the NHL and the Coyotes, who filed for Chapter 11 last week. The league “maintains it’s been in control of the franchise and has until Wednesday to file arguments to further its case beyond its objections it filed last week” Court documents indicate that Coyotes Owner Jerry Moyes gave Bettman an “‘irrevocable proxy' to control his franchise on Nov. 14 in exchange for $38[M] in league money to stay afloat.” The NHL in its objection to the Coyotes’ Chapter 11 filing stated, “As a condition to providing this support, the league required Mr. Moyes … to execute proxies in favour of the commissioner of the NHL to control the equity and operation of the (club). Moyes asked that he be allowed to retain his titles to avoid public embarrassment, and the league so agreed, but with the express understanding that he had no authority … to take any action outside the normal course of business, including filing for bankruptcy” (TORONTO STAR, 5/11).

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