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Volume 24 No. 158

Franchises

     In Quebec City, only "a handful" of fans protested outside
of the hotel where the deal was announced.  Most blamed the
failure of the team on team President Marcel Aubut rather than
Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau, who refused to give in to
demands for a new arena (CP/Hamilton SPECTATOR).  Parizeau was
clearly angry about the move.  As he left a meeting yesterday, he
"snapped": "I have more important things to deal with than Mr.
Aubut's every little twitch" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/26).  Meanwhile,
writers across Canada mourned the loss of the team and its
tradition:     GLOBE & MAIL:  Christie, Shoalts & Seguin notes
"the new realities of the hockey industry":  "Quebec City has the
lowest family income of any city with an NHL franchise and
operates in the smallest urban area of any team in the league
with the smallest number of head offices. ... Only Quebec's
passion for hockey -- and perhaps Aubut's ego -- were large
enough for the [NHL]" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/26).
     TORONTO SUN:  Al Strachan writes the Nordiques had become "a
means of maximizing returns for an integrated corporate
structure."  But George Cross blames apathy: "Fans in Winnipeg
rallied around the team when it appeared it was heading for
Minnesota.  The sale of the Nordiques hardly resulted in a
whimper" (TORONTO SUN, 5/26).
     OTTAWA CITIZEN:  Anne McIlroy calls allowing the Nords to
leave "one of the few things Premier Jacques Parizeau has done
right lately" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 5/26).
     Hamilton SPECTATOR:  John Kernaghan bashes corporate
ownership:  "That, in sum, is hockey now.  It's marketing
strategies and corporate alliances, not guts, glory and passion"
(Hamilton SPECTATOR, 5/26).
     U.S. REAX:  In L.A., Helene Elliott examines the NHL's
weaker franchises, while also noting the league's expansion
plans.  Elliott asks: "By [2000] ... will the economic pinch have
endangered the league's medium-sized markets, which are the NHL's
backbone?" (L.A. TIMES, 5/26).  In Philadelphia, Flyers President
Bobby Clarke criticized club owners in general "who are too
committed to making money."  Clarke: "It's become blackmail.
They say, 'Build me a building.  Pay for my losses or I'm
leaving.'  I think the business is still screwed up" (Gary Miles,
PHILADELPHIA ENQUIRER, 5/26).

     Nuggets owner Comsat Entertainment Group yesterday acquired
the Nordiques from a Quebec group led by Marcel Aubut for $75M
and announced the team's move to Denver.
     THE DEAL:  For the $75M, Comsat receives the team, its
development squad in Cornwall, Ontario, and player contracts.
Comsat Entertainment President Charlie Lyons would not comment on
how much, if any transfer fee the club would have to pay the NHL.
 Lyons said that Comsat did not become "serious" about the deal
until late last week, as the company assumed the club would stay
in Quebec (THE DAILY).  Lyons said Aubut called him on May 17 and
asked "It's not going to work out up here.  Would you like to buy
the team?" (Curtis Eichelburger, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/26).  In
this morning's USA TODAY, Jack Carey writes that about $10M is
"presumed going toward a transfer fee" (USA TODAY, 5/26).
     RUN WITH THE BIG DOGS:  Comsat, a video entertainment and
satellite technology firm, said the team will help build their
entertainment division.  Lyons: "We want to build a significant
entertainment asset that provides great returns to our
shareholders, both in terms of income and in terms of asset
value."  Lyons noted Comsat's presence in the NBA and NHL: "It's
not going unnoticed that companies like Disney and Turner and
Blockbuster and ITT are now joining the growing group of
companies that want to expand their entertainment businesses and
really see the trophy assets to be professional sports" (THE
DAILY).  Comsat CEO Bruce Crockett, on investing in the NHL:
"The highest returns in this business come from owning a
combination of assets starting with an arena, filling it with
multiple sports teams, selling high-profit merchandise, selling
broadcast rights to cable and pay-TV and using and leveraging
your own production facilities" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/26).
     A PEPSI WITH YOUR BIG MAC?  The team will join the Nuggets
at McNichols Sports Arena for the next two seasons before moving
into the proposed Pepsi Center, which Comsat hopes to build in
downtown Denver.  Although the project has been held up in a
property tax dispute, Lyons said the arena is a necessity.
Lyons, who said the hockey team will "probably lose a little
money" at McNichols, stressed that the purchase is not contingent
on the arena deal.  Lyons: "The deal for the new arena is not
done, and we intend to get it done. ... The NHL is very clear
that they don't see this hockey team playing in McNichols much
beyond two years" (THE DAILY).  The ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS reports
that if the city doesn't help Comsat get the arena, officials
from the NHL and the NBA "will begin applying pressure on the
city."  Another NHL source called the deal was a "ticking lease"
and implied it could be settled once the mayoral race is over
(Curtis Eichelburger, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/26).
     IF YOU DON'T SUCCEED ... MARKET:  Lyons blamed the failure
of the NHL Rockies, who left Denver in '82, on poor marketing,
and "not the market."  Lyons said he considers the Denver fan
base to be "considerable," but that Comsat planned on
establishing ticket prices lower than the league average in order
to cultivate that market.  KHOW Radio in Denver reported 7,500
requests already for season tickets (THE DAILY).  Joseph Sanchez
writes in today's DENVER POST that the team had received 1,100
season tix orders six hours after the announcement (DENVER POST,
5/26).  Comsat ran full-page ads in both Denver dailies this
morning with the slogan "Pucker Up, the NHL's here" under a
goalie mask.   THE OPERATIONS:  Lyons said Comsat planned to
retain Pierre Lacroix as GM of the club and Marc Crawford as head
coach.  Nuggets marketing officials will work with the team
initially (THE DAILY).  Nuggets VP of Business Ops Gary Hunter
will reportedly handle the business end of the team, Nuggets Dir
of Marketing Shawn Hunter will handle the marketing operations,
and Lacroix will run the hockey operations (Curtis Eichelburger,
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/26).
     ADIEU, LES NORDIQUES:  Lyons said the change in the team's
name will be announced within a month of NHL approval.  While not
commenting on whether the team would be called Denver or
Colorado, Lyons stressed his desire to market the team throughout
the 10-state Rocky Mountain Region (THE DAILY).  Shawn Hunter
said the name search had been narrowed to three: "It's important
to come up with something that represents the region, the people
and the lifestyle -- something that is very hot and is easy to
merchandise throughout the region" (R.M. NEWS, 5/26).
     MARKET SATURATION:  As Denver becomes the tenth major league
market with teams in the NHL, MLB, NFL and NBA, the ROCKY
MOUNTAIN NEWS' Curtis Eichelberger this morning asks: "Can it
survive?"  Jack Vickers, who brought the NHL Rockies to Denver in
the late '70s, says Comsat's arena situation is the key but
agreed with Lyons that marketing will be important:  "I know it
takes another dollar out of the Denver sporting community, but
it's a different kind of fan, a different kind of following, and
it's still a great sport" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/26).
     GRIZZLIES FUTURE:  IHL Grizzlies President Bernie Mullen
said he would not rule out the possibility of both teams playing
in Denver next year.  Mullen said the team could split games
between the Denver Coliseum and McNichols (Irv Moss, DENVER POST,
5/26).

     In New York, Richard Sandomir examines the Devils' current
TV deal and how it may contribute to a possible move to
Nashville.  The Devils' SportsChannel deal expires in '97-98, but
Devils Owner John McMullen "has not asked SportsChannel to
renegotiate."  However, if the team stays they still wouldn't be
able to "dictate higher local rights fees" -- even with their
current success."  SportsChannel and MSG (the Devils former
network) are both run by Cablevision Chair Chuck Dolan, and
"there is no true competitive bidding" in New York for TV rights.
"That quandary could hurt the bargaining position of the Devils,
and even the Yankees," whose deal runs out in 2000.  Sandomir
writes that both "would be helped if another bidder entered" --
such as Liberty Sports -- with the resources to create an outlet
that could compete (N.Y. TIMES, 5/26).  Phil Mushnick reports,
"Everyone we've spoken with who has an interest in NHL TV
contracts is convinced that the Devils are already gone to
Nashville" (N.Y. POST, 5/26).  The POST's Thomas Hill reports
that the Nets, spurred on by the Devils, also hope to negotiate
changes in their Meadowlands lease with the NJSEA (N.Y. POST,
5/26).

     "Barring a dramatic increase in their popularity this
summer," the Expos will be based in the U.S. next season,
according to Marty York in today's Toronto GLOBE & MAIL.  Sources
said yesterday that Expo ownership "has already begun"
preparations to sell or move the team and has started
investigating sites in Nashville, Charlotte, Orlando, Buffalo and
Northern VA.  According to Expos GM Kevin Malone, the team needs
to average between 25,000 and 30,000 fans for the rest of the
home games this season in order to stay in Montreal for '96
(Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/26).

     The IHL Cleveland Lumberjacks unveiled a new logo yesterday.
The logo contains a "beaver with an attitude" holding a hockey
stick with the phrase "JACKS" in bright blue at the center
position.   The logo was designed by Valentine Design & Marketing
in Minneapolis, the same company which designed the IHL Moose
logo (Lumberjacks).
     YOU CRAZY NUTS:  Lansing, MI, named its Royals minor league
team the "Lansing Lugnuts" (CNBC, 5/25).