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Volume 24 No. 156

Franchises

     An estimated 35,000 Winnipeggers rallied yesterday in a
fund-raising effort to keep the team from being moved to MN.
Meanwhile, CanWest Global TV head Izzy Asper, who is
"spearheading the effort" to keep the team in Winnipeg, told the
Winnipeg City Council yesterday that he has written commitments
for C$32M and verbal commitments for C$30M to save the team, and
that he will make a bid to Jets Owner Barry Shenkarow if he has
C$60M "in writing" by Thursday (Tim Campbell, WINNIPEG FREE
PRESS, 5/17).
     BACK ON THE CHAIN GANG:  "Everything from the contents of
childrens' piggy banks" to a C$10M commitment from a local
businessman was poured into the campaign to save the team.  Even
prisoners got involved, as "more than 100" inmates at Rockward
institution North of the city donated their C$5.28 daily pay to
the Jets cause.  Local McDonald's and Burger King outlets will
donate C$1 for every large sandwich sold.  Fans at last night's
rally donated more than C$100,000 (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/17).
     ARENA FINANCING:  The Winnipeg City Council's support to
fund a third of the cost for a new arena for the Jets "looked
solid last night, after a last minute flurry of proposals were
raised that could spare homeowners from property-tax increases,"
according to this morning's WINNIPEG FREE PRESS.  The Manitoba
provincial government has already pledged to pay their third --
C$37M -- but, the federal government "remained non-committal."
Winnipeg's share of the C$111M arena may be funded through an
increase in the city's business tax, effective '97.  According to
a proposal by Winnipeg Chief Commissioner Rick Frost, the tax
would rise from 9.8% to 10.3%.  Mayor Susan Thompson predicted
that all three branches of government would approve their
respective tax plans by 5pm today.  Thompson added that the
proposed business tax increase "would not be necessary" if the
Canadian Radio-Television and Telecom Commission approves a plan
that would allow pay-TV for Jets games (Nick Martin, WINNIPEG
FREE PRESS, 5/17).
     HELP IN MN?  Richard Burke, who is trying to buy the Jets
and lure them to Minnesota, has told MN Gov. Arne Carlson that he
wants state help.  Burke did not specify the amount he is
seeking.  According to the Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, Burke
"strongly endorsed" a funding approach that would give the state
a stake in the team.  The MN Legislature is scheduled to decide
on a plan before they adjourn Monday (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE,
5/16).

     NJ Gov. Christine Todd Whitman "is maneuvering" to keep the
Devils from accepting a lucrative deal to move to Nashville,
according to Richard Sandomir in this morning's N.Y. TIMES.
Sandomir reports that Whitman plans to meet with the NJ Sports
and Exposition Authority today, and has assigned her husband, who
is an investment banker, to "devise a proposal to satisfy the
Devils, without giving away the store."  In an interview Monday
night, Whitman said she would consider adding more luxury boxes
to the Brendan Byrne Arena.  The Nashville Metro Council last
night approved a resolution giving any team that moves to the
city's new arena attractive lease incentives, including:  A $20M
relocation fee plus yearly rent of $750,000 or 5% of ticket
sales; 100% of game ticket revenue, 100% of radio-TV revenue and
97.5% of luxury suite revenue; revenues from game-day
merchandise, parking and concessions, scoreboard, sideboard, and
50% of all other arena advertising.  In addition, Sandomir
reports that "privately, the league looks favorably upon the
possibility of the Nashville Devils.  It would ease the three-
team overcrowding" in the New York market, "and let the NHL
establish the first major league sports team in Nashville" (N.Y.
TIMES, 5/17).
     MUSIC CITY CHIMES IN:  By a 21-12 vote, the Nashville Metro
Council approved a measure last night allowing the arena to sell
beer in the new arena after opposition from some conservative
Christian ministers.  Councilman Ronnie Stein:  "I have been told
our window of opportunity for the NHL is only three or four
months wide.  And at that time, it may close for years into the
future" (Mark Ippolito, Nashville TENNESSEAN, 5/17).  However,
while local politicos are enthusiastic about attracting a pro
sports team, Nashville's pursuit of an NHL franchise "continues
to be greeted with something less than enthusiasm by many sports-
minded citizens," writes columnist David Climer of the
TENNESSEAN.  Climer reports that many residents are "shocked" by
the cost of NHL tickets and are "concerned" about downtown
parking (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 5/16).

     "Barring some unforeseen event, it's all over for the Quebec
Nordiques as an NHL franchise north of the U.S. border,"
according to Robert McKenzie in today's TORONTO STAR.  The team
"bluntly rejected" a C$50M "rescue package" proposed by the
Quebec provincial government yesterday, and according to Quebec's
two main TV networks (TVA and Radio Canada), the team could be
sold to Comsat Video Enterprises and moved to Denver as early as
Friday (TORONTO STAR, 5/17).  ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH HOPES:  A close
friend of Nordiques Co-Owner Marcel Aubut told the DENVER POST
that Aubut believes there is a "99 percent chance the team will
move to Denver."  According to Aubut's friend, the price of the
sale to Comsat, reportedly $75M, is said to be more in the $65-
70M range.  If the sale goes through, Aubut stands to clear about
$15M in profit (Adrian Dater, DENVER POST, 5/17).  The DENVER
POST reported yesterday that a source who spoke with NHL
Commissioner Gary Bettman was told that "Bettman would be
'shocked' if the team didn't move to Denver" (DENVER POST, 5/16).
One source close to Aubut told the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS that Aubut
"might continue to work with the team, as a consultant, once it
is sold to Comsat" (Curtis Eichelberger, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS,
5/17).  Aubut:  "The Nordiques' owners don't want what happened
in Winnipeg to repeat itself in Quebec" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL,
5/17).
     PENCIL THEM IN?  One NHL GM reports that he received a
tentative '95-96 NHL schedule with Denver included (DENVER POST,
5/17).  NHL VP of Public Relations Arthur Pincus denied such a
schedule exists (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/17).
     THE DEAD DEAL:  The Quebec government offered to pay up to
$7M of the team's debts over each of the next two years, and to
come up with another $7M for a third year should they decide to
build a new arena.  In addition, the government has also offered
to cover 70% of the difference if the team must be sold in two
years at a price lower that the current offers.  But the offer
did not come with conditions.  Over the next two years, the team
would have to show that it can sell 80 corporate boxes, get a
"rein on rampaging player salaries" and show what measures the
league would take to help small market teams.  Quebec Premier
Jacques Parizeau said those conditions seemed to be the sticking
point  (CP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/17).  Parizeau:  "These are
things you have to try, but you can't be taken by the ambition of
certain people whose eyes become bigger than their appetite.  It
didn't work.  I deplore it, but the episode is closed" (Adrian
Dater, DENVER POST, 5/17).
     FAN REAX:  In Montreal, Philip Authier reports that fans are
planning a demonstration today in front of the National Assembly
to "press the government."  Yesterday, Urbain Johnson, one of the
Nordiques founders, said he has a 75,000-name petition "urging
more government help that he wants to give the Premier" (MONTREAL
GAZETTE, 5/17).

     Officials close to negotiations said yesterday "the Oakland-
rooted franchise is close -- but just short -- of an agreement to
return north," according to David Li in today's OAKLAND TRIBUNE.
Coliseum President George Vukasin and City Council member Ignacio
De La Fuente said the East Bay offer to the Raiders "is gaining
serious consideration," but both officials have denied that
Raiders Owner Al Davis had accepted.  The fate of the Raiders is
expected to be decided next week at the NFL owners meeting in
Jacksonville, and although he would not comment on "specific
stadium issues," a Raiders spokesperson "hinted" yesterday that
the meetings "could help settle the issue" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE,
5/17).