THIS ONE GOES TO 11: NHL SET TO HEAR EXPANSION BIDS
The NHL will hear eleven presentations from nine cities
bidding for an expansion team over the next two days in New
York City, according to Damien Cox of the TORONTO STAR.
Each group, including three from Houston, will have 30-45
minutes to "make its pitch," then another 30-45 minutes to
answer questions. The cities: Atlanta; Houston; Nashville;
Raleigh-Durham, NC; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Columbus, OH;
Hampton Roads, VA; Hamilton, ON; and Oklahoma City, OK. Cox
notes Atlanta "is regarded as the favorite along with
Houston ... mostly because it is believed the league is
looking to improve" its TV presence. But those two do not
have "perfect arena arrangements" and "only Nashville has
everything in place" (TORONTO STAR, 1/13). USA TODAY's
Kevin Allen notes that with the NHL looking to land "a far
more lucrative" TV deal in two years, "they will be looking
to expand their national ratings potential with this round
of expansion. That's why Atlanta is considered the favorite
... Houston also seems like a certainty." The "conventional
wisdom" is for the NHL to expand by four teams by the 2000,
two in '98-99 and two in '99-00 (USA TODAY, 1/13).
LOCAL REAX: In Houston, Neil Hohlfeld: "Perhaps it is a
coincidence, but the [Executive Committee] will hear the
bids from the Houston groups in the order that probably is
how they rank in terms of winning the expansion battle:"
IHL Aeros Owner Chuck Watson, followed by Rockets Owner Les
Alexander and then the Maloof family (HOUSTON CHRONICLE,
1/12). In Atlanta, Henry Unger notes that Turner
Broadcasting's bid "is viewed as one of the strongest by
league observers" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/13). St. Paul
Mayor Norm Coleman: "It wouldn't surprise me if the league
announces Atlanta and Houston would join as expansion teams
in '98 and leaves 2000 open to wait for the resolution of
the Hartford situation." The Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE's
Curt Brown notes St. Paul "is considered a prime relocation
city because the league has been inclined to waive hefty
transfer fees," as much as $20M, for teams returning to
former NHL cities (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/13).
COL. KURTZ? In Toronto, Damien Cox, on expansion: "The
horror. The horror" (TORONTO STAR, 1/13).
ALL-STAR DOUGH: In San Jose, city officials estimate
that "direct spending" at the NHL All-Star weekend "will
exceed" $5M and "indirect spending should exceed" $10M (SAN
JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/12).