SBD/Issue 192/Franchises

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  • Flyers Reportedly Chosen To Face Bruins In '10 Winter Classic

    Flyers Reportedly To Be Bruins' Opponent
    For NHL Winter Classic At Fenway Park
    The Flyers will be the "opponent for the Boston Bruins in the next NHL Winter Classic," which will be played at Fenway Park on January 1, according to league sources cited by Anthony Sanfilippo of the DELAWARE COUNTY TIMES. The NHL had "lobbied to pit the Washington Capitals against the Bruins in an effort to showcase" Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin and his "exciting, young team." But the Flyers were "brought back into the discussion by NBC, which will broadcast the contest." Sources said that the net told the league it "wanted the Flyers instead of the Caps in order to draw a better television audience and increase advertising revenue." The NHL "relented and agreed to have the Flyers participate, with the Caps as a possible 2011 opponent against the Rangers in a game that could be played at Yankee Stadium." The Flyers when asked by the league "indicated they would be a willing participant in the 2010 contest, but wanted the option of an outdoor game against the Pittsburgh Penguins to remain high on the league's to-do list." Sources said that the league has "agreed to that stipulation" (DELAWARE COUNTY TIMES, 6/24).'s Joe Haggerty reported the "lackluster playoff ratings for NBC" for the Capitals-Rangers Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series are "believed to at least be partly behind the network's motives" (, 6/22). NHL VP/Media Relations Frank Brown: "We'll announce the schedule on July 15 and then the mystery will be solved" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 6/24).

    GOING FOR SECONDS: Boston METRO's Jeff Howe reports though final details are "still being worked out regarding the timing of the game," a second hockey game taking place at Fenway Park next year will "feature the Boston College men's hockey team." A source said that Boston Univ. is "talking with Fenway Sports Group about the possibility of playing at Fenway" (Boston METRO, 6/24). An NHL source indicated that a BC-BU game "might not be on the same day as the Bruins-Flyers tilt, but later in the season" (DELAWARE COUNTY TIMES, 6/24).

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  • Gretzky Willing To Take Pay Cut To Help Coyotes Stay In Phoenix

    Gretzky May Soon Earn Less
    Than His Current $8M Salary
    Coyotes Managing Partner and coach Wayne Gretzky said that he is "prepared to consider a cut in salary to help" the team remain in Phoenix, according to Rod Mickleburgh of the GLOBE & MAIL. Gretzky, who earns $8M a year from the team, said that "once the ownership situation is clarified, he would be willing to sit down with the owners 'and make it where everybody's comfortable and happy.'" Gretzky: "It's as simple as that." Gretzky also "expressed support for Hamilton as a future NHL city." Gretzky: "In my heart of hearts, I hope one day Hamilton will have a franchise. They could definitely support a franchise. Everyone knows that. I don't think anybody could question that. Eventually, I'm sure [RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie] is going to acquire a franchise and live out his dream of putting a team in Hamilton. We just don't know when that's going to be" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/24). Gretzky also said that he "sees a 'tremendous positive' in the possible sale" of the Coyotes to a group led by White Sox and Bulls Chair Jerry Reinsdorf. Gretzky said Reinsdorf is a "guy who's been an outstanding owner" in both MLB and the NBA. Gretzky: "Obviously he would step in and be a tremendous positive for the NHL and the city of Phoenix" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 6/23).

    BID DETAILS: In Hamilton, Ken Peters reports Balsillie "wants to see the details of the Reinsdorf bid," and "more particularly, whether there is a lease pact with the City of Glendale and conditions attached that would permit Reinsdorf to relocate from Phoenix after a set time period." Balsillie spokesperson Bill Walker: "Is there any relocation aspect to Mr. Reinsdorf's bid? If there is, will that be made clear to the judge. And, in that sense, is it no different than a relocation bid?" (HAMILTON SPECTATOR, 6/24). Also in Hamilton, Steve Milton writes, "Forgive the cynicism here, but this Reinsdorf rescue has a fishy echo."  Nobody "in their right financial mind will chain themselves to an irrevocable deal to stay in Glendale for another couple of decades," so there will be "some kind of escape plan behind this bid that will let the NHL regain control of the desert from what, so far, has been Balsillie's schedule." One can "hardly blame the league for wanting to control its decisions, just as you can't blame Balsillie for trying to put those decisions into court, where the NHL, with its sometimes questionable reasoning, doesn't have the steering wheel" (HAMILTON SPECTATOR, 6/24).

    PHOENIX RISING: Maple Leafs President & GM Brian Burke yesterday said that he "believes the Coyotes should remain in the desert and be given an opportunity to succeed rather than moving to Hamilton or whatever locale NHL commissioner Gary Bettman may give his blessing." Burke: "For every situation like Phoenix, you have to look at Washington and Pittsburgh. Three years ago, they were saying Pittsburgh was in bankruptcy and would have to move. They were saying Washington was a graveyard. Chicago was empty, Boston was empty and now they are completely sold out" (TORONTO SUN, 6/24).

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  • Bettman Tells Koules, Barrie To Determine New Ownership Plan

    Barrie Will Not Give Up Right
    To Sign Off On Transactions
    NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday demanded that Lightning co-Owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie "work out an ownership structure that eliminates the rancor" between the two, according to Damian Cristodero of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. Koules and Barrie met with Bettman in N.Y., and the timetable to determine a new ownership setup is "unclear, though the deadline might be as soon as August." However, it remains "status quo" for now, with Koules as CEO & Governor and GM Brian Lawton as the "point man in the hockey operations department." It also "appears that Barrie, like Koules, must sign off on major transactions." Lawton yesterday said that he was the "tiebreaker between Koules and Barrie." But Barrie then said, "I won't give up the right to sign off on things." No NHL or Lightning execs would comment on yesterday's meeting, and one official said he is under a "super gag order." Hockey HOFer Phil Esposito, who helped Tampa Bay secure an NHL expansion franchise in '91, said, "All I know is it has to be pretty bad for them to be called in by the league. It has to be a lot to do with money, what else could it be? Quite frankly, it's worrisome. It's scary." Cristodero notes how "rights will be distributed in the future remains to be seen," but yesterday's meeting was "another strange trip for a franchise that has seen its share" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 6/24).

    POWER STRUGGLE:'s Pierre LeBrun cited a source as saying that Lawton will be the "point man for all hockey matters" going forward. The source indicated that during yesterday's meeting it was "agreed that Lawton would handle all contact with player agents and GMs -- in other words, all signings and trades" (, 6/23). The GLOBE & MAIL's Tim Wharnsby cites a source as predicting that Koules will "preserve as the Lightning owner" while Barrie will "fade from the scene as the summer goes on." However, a different source indicated that if Barrie assumes control of the franchise, he "has interest in hiring" former Molson Coors CEO Dan O'Neill to "help him run" the franchise (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/24).

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  • Buffalo Among Six NHL Markets Facing Financial Barriers

    Buffalo Danger Signs Include Low Team Value,
    Low Population, Nearby Hockey Competition
    Buffalo is among six NHL markets that "face the most imposing barriers to long-term financial success," according to a study cited by G. Scott Thomas of BUSINESS FIRST OF BUFFALO. Phoenix is in the "worst shape of any hockey market, failing eight of the study's 10 indicators." Miami and Nashville are "almost as badly off," with both "falling short in seven categories." Buffalo is "next, tied with" Atlanta and Raleigh with "six danger signs apiece." The study "used demographic and financial data from several sources to quantify the challenges facing the NHL's 27 markets." Buffalo's "six danger signs" were low population, low personal income, low franchise value, small growth in value, loss in operating income and nearby hockey competition. The market did get "high marks for attendance," drawing 18,532 fans per home game last season, and "percentage of capacity," selling 99.2% of all seats at HSBC Arena last year. The "other two pluses are its location in prime hockey country and the absence of any local competition" from the NBA. Seven of the nine markets with "at least five danger signs are in the Sun Belt" (BUSINESS FIRST OF BUFFALO, 6/19 issue). BUSINESS FIRST OF BUFFALO's Thomas notes Toronto-based financial planner Ted Rechtshaffen "conducted a separate analysis, yet his findings are similar to those" in the first study. Rechtshaffen rated the Coyotes, Blues, Ducks, Hurricanes, Sabres, Islanders and Predators as "having the shakiest futures." He also "expressed doubts about" the Capitals. Rechtshaffen: "As a business, I think the NHL needs to contract. But if the possibility remains of moving teams and generating money, the NHL obviously would prefer to move them" (BUSINESS FIRST OF BUFFALO, 6/19 issue).

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  • 76ers Will Return To Old Logo, Color Scheme, For Upcoming Season

    The 76ers have changed their primary logo and color scheme, returning to their traditional basketball logo and a red, white and blue color scheme. The basketball logo was last used during the '96-97 season, and the change is the first major logo tweak since the '97-98 season, when it was modernized to incorporate black, silver and gold into a stylized "76ers" wordmark. The team will introduce a new secondary logo and wordmark at a later date and will unveil a new court design and uniforms later this summer (76ers). 76ers Owner Ed Snider said the primary logo "evokes some of this franchise's proudest moments." Snider: "We also made this change because we understood how much this logo means to our fans, the franchise, and to our city." 76ers GM Ed Stefanski said that the team "reached out to fans and received an 'overwhelming' response to return to the old logo and uniforms." In Philadelphia, Kate Fagan notes the team yesterday "launched a 'T-Shirt Tour,' sending a double-decker bus, tossing T-shirts courtesy of adidas, through the city and into the suburbs" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 6/24).

    PLENTY OF WORK TO DO: In Philadelphia, John Gonzalez writes the 76ers have "hit the metaphorical reset button on a franchise that desperately needs a fresh start." But the franchise still has "some kinks to work out, and they still have some fans to woo -- relaunch or no relaunch." The "new/old uniforms will certainly look better," but clothes "don't make the man" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 6/24).

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  • Franchise Notes

    Rays President Silverman
    Critical Of Rays Fans
    In St. Petersburg, Marc Topkin notes Rays President Matt Silverman was "openly critical of the Tampa Bay fans and market" after yesterday's first game in the three day series against the Phillies at Tropicana Field "drew fewer than 20,000" fans. Silverman: "It's a rare privilege to host a rematch of the World Series, especially against a team with local connections. Based on all the information we had, we projected full houses. It's a huge miss." Rays manager Joe Maddon also "put some blame on the fans, noting that the most of the Tropicana Field crowd of 19,608 was in red." Maddon: "It's kind of awkward when you get to this point and all of a sudden the majority of the crowd is for the other side." The Rays this season are averaging 22,703 fans, which ranks in the "bottom third of the AL and the majors." The team's goal for the season was to be "around the major-league average, which was 29,562 entering play Tuesday" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 6/24).

    LAYAWAY PLAN: The JACKSONVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL's Kimberly Morrison notes with season-ticket sales "off to a rough start," the Jaguars are "revving up marketing efforts and repackaging tickets to add value and affordability." About 15,000 season-ticket holders did not renew this year, "more than doubling the nonrenewal rate of prior years." Jaguars Senior VP/Stadium Operations & CFO Bill Prescott said that the team is "well off the 43,000 season tickets it had sold at this time last year for the approximately 67,000 uncovered seats at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium." The team this week announced a new 12-month layaway program for '10 season tickets in addition to the previously established five-month layaway program. The program will "allow fans to set their own payment schedule and debit the amount automatically from their bank account for a 1.9[%] transaction fee and no interest" (JACKSONVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/19 issue).

    EXTRA CREDIT: In London, Paul Kelso reported EPL club Liverpool Managing Dir Christian Purslow "will open talks with" RBS over refinancing Liverpool co-Owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks' US$579M loan in the "coming days, with a view to securing a new deal before the July 24 deadline." It is "expected that RBS will ask Gillett and Hicks to provide additonal security on top" of the US$306M in personal guarantees and cash they provided in January '08 (, 6/23).

    SHIPPING OUT: A source yesterday said that FedEx Founder & CEO Frederick Smith is "not interested" in buying a majority share of the Rams. A report Friday claimed that Smith was on "the short list of people whose names are circulating as potential bidders" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 6/24).

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