The NHL Board of Governors' Executive Committee on
Monday heard presentations from six expansion franchise
applicants, including three from Houston, and will hear five
more today, according to NEWSDAY's Jim Smith. Presentations
today will conclude the two-day meetings (NEWSDAY, 1/14).
COLUMBUS: Chiefs Chair Lamar Hunt, part of a group from
Columbus, OH, was "quietly elegant," according to Al
Strachan of the TORONTO SUN. Strachan: "It's quite possible
that, given his sporting connections, he has an inside track
so far as the NHL's intentions are concerned" (TORONTO SUN,
1/14). Hunt: "Columbus compares favorably with Kansas City
in many areas and the Chiefs just led the NFL in attendance
for the third straight year" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/14).
HAMILTON: The city of Hamilton tried to "woo the NHL
by pointing to a population base of six million that
includes most of the western edge of Metropolitan Toronto,"
according to Doug Smith of the CANADIAN PRESS. The group
also "met its ... biggest drawbacks head on," as Mayor Bob
Morrow said while the city would be "willing and able to own
the team for as long as necessary," there are "five people
interested in purchasing the franchise" (CP/Toronto GLOBE &
MAIL, 1/14). Morrow also said Hamilton should not have to
compensate either the Sabres or Maple Leafs for "territorial
infringement," according to Damien Cox of the TORONTO STAR.
Cost estimates of paying off the teams "have run as high as"
$50M, and it is "believed both franchises would insist on
some kind of compensation" (TORONTO STAR, 1/14). In
Toronto, Al Strachan writes Hamilton "gave it their best
shot, making a passionate, reasonable, hockey-oriented
plea." Strachan: "If those governors were reasonable or
hockey-oriented or even passionate about anything other than
money, Hamilton might have a chance of winning a franchise.
But that's not the case" (TORONTO SUN, 1/14).
HOUSTON: The three groups representing Houston made
their case and "all of them said the league raised questions
concerning if and when an arena would be built," according
to Neil Hohlfeld of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Rockets Owner
Les Alexander: "The thing they (the NHL) seemed most
interested in was the building. They wanted to know when it
would be built" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/14). The "makeup" of
IHL Aeros Owner Chuck Watson's bid "received a huge
financial boost" when Robert McNair, Founder & CEO of Cogen
Technologies, became "an equal partner in the venture with
Watson." The combination of Watson and McNair gives the
group "a huge bankroll, believed to be as much" as $1.3B
(Neil Hohlfeld, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/14).
ST. PAUL: Although St. Paul made its presentation
Monday, "courting the Hartford Whalers still looked like
their best chance to reclaim a team," according to Curt
Brown of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. MN Gov. Arne Carlson
and St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman reportedly had dinner with
Whalers Owner Peter Karmanos (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE,
1/14). In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman notes the city "will
never get a team unless it builds a new arena." The NHL
would "prefer" a team to play in the Target Center, but T-
Wolves Owner Glen Taylor would ask the city to lift the $3M
in "real estate taxes he is currently paying and make it
possible for both the Wolves and a hockey team to make it
financially" in the arena (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/13).
OTHER CITIES: Felix Sabates representing Raleigh, NC,
and Hornets Owner George Shinn, backing a bid from Hampton
Roads, VA, make presentations today. The CHARLOTTE
OBSERVER's Rick Bonnell: "Both look like long shots"
(CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/14)....TBS will make its presentation
today. The ATLANTA CONSTITUTION's Henry Unger notes the
Atlanta bid was described Monday by competing bidders and
league observers as a "Shoo-in. Odds-on favorite. The upper
hand" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/15)....Also scheduled today
are presentations from Nashville and Oklahoma City, OK
(Frank Litsky, N.Y. TIMES, 1/14).