LEAFS' FLETCHER PREDICTS NHL WILL EXPAND AFTER NEXT SEASON
Maple Leafs President & GM Cliff Fletcher says the NHL will
expand by two more teams after next season, according to Damien
Cox in this morning's TORONTO STAR. Fletcher notes there has
been no official discussions, but adds, "There are so many people
out there willing to put the money up. The NHL is hot right now,
and people want to buy franchises." With an eventual goal of 32
teams, the STAR's Cox mentions Denver, Phoenix, Seattle,
Portland, Atlanta and Houston as candidates. Cox cites the
league's desire to get the estimated $150M entry fee from the
each of the two new teams before the Jets, Nordiques or Whalers
move to one of the desired locations. Cox notes, "With no
Canadian city, including Hamilton, considered a viable candidate,
and with Winnipeg and Quebec possibly interested in relocating,
the Canadian influence in the league seems destined to be reduced
further" (TORONTO STAR, 2/27).
FOLLOW THE BOUNCING NORD: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont
reports that last week's Comsat offer to buy the Nordiques and
move them to Denver "rattled a few chains in Quebec City."
Nordiques Co-Owner Marcel Aubut is giving the province 90 days to
come up with plans for a new arena or he says he will sell the
team to the highest bidder. Dupont: "It now appears the
government will build Aubut his new arena and include an on-site
casino to finance the project" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/26). In New
York, Joe Lapointe predicts the team will stay. "With another
referendum on provincial sovereignty approaching in Quebec, what
French politician voting on arena financing would want to take
the blame for the creation of the 'Phoenix Sudiques?'" According
to Nordiques spokesperson Jean Martineau, the team wants a
financial subsidy from the province until the arena is built.
Lapointe also theorizes that Aubut's threat of a move and the
potential loss of expansion revenue could spark revenue-sharing
talks (N.Y. TIMES, 2/26).