The Alberta Treasury Branches (ATB) on Friday confirmed
that it has "taken a direct role in the sale" of the NHL
Oilers in an effort to "recoup some of the reported" $125M
that it loaned Owner Peter Pocklington, according to Allan
Maki of the Toronto GLOBE & MAIL. ATB has activated the 20-
day "warning clause" in its '95 location agreement between
Pocklington, the city of Edmonton and the Northlands
Coliseum, which means there are now 20 days for local buyers
"to produce a serious offer;" if there is no local interest,
outside offers "will be considered." Maki wrote that with
ATB's move, "it is believed" that potential buyers "will be
willing to step forward and open their wallets." Maki added
that it "is also believed" that the most local serious
group, including Bruce Saville, Cal Nichols, Rod Hodgson,
and others, "has yet to raise the money it needs to meet"
the US$70M purchase price (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/22). ATB
spokesperson Darlene Dickinson said that if a local offer is
received in 20 days, "they would have an additional 40 days
to finalize a deal." In addition, if an out-of-town offer is
received, local buyers will have 30 days to match that offer
or purchase the team for $70M (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 11/22).
U.S. INTEREST: In Toronto, Al Strachan wrote that
Rockets Owner Les Alexander is "still interested" in buying
the team, however, after "being embarrassed" by Edmonton
officials, Alexander's offer this time "may not be as
magnanimous" (TORONTO SUN, 11/22). Strachan added that
there is "every indication" that Edmonton politicians "made
a big mistake when they played hardball" with Alexander.
Strachan noted that the "word is" that the ATB plans to sell
the team to "private enterprise" (TORONTO SUN, 11/23).
Friday's Hurricanes-Rangers crowd drew 19,358, the
largest home crowd in Hurricanes history (NEWS & OBSERVER,
11/22). The crowd included 8,000 game day walk-ups (N.Y.
POST, 11/22). Sunday's Hurricanes home game against the
Flames was played before 5,516 fans, "the smallest crowd to
see an NHL game this season" (NEWS & RECORD, 11/24).
MLB: While Sonics Owner Barry Ackerley "is willing to
be a major investor" in Don Smiley's venture to purchase the
Marlins, should Smiley's bid fail, Ackerley "appears ready
to step in and put together his own group." Ackerley would
not move the team because his company has "large business
interests in Florida" (Frank Hughes, NEWS TRIBUNE, 11/24).
Minneapolis lawyer Clark Griffith said Friday that he
and other investors "are poised" to offer $86M in cash to
buy the Twins, according to Jay Weiner of the Minneapolis
STAR TRIBUNE. Griffith, whose group includes his father,
former Twins Owner Calvin Griffith, as well as publisher
Vance Opperman and St. Paul Saints President Mike Veeck,
among others, characterized his bid as a $134M total offer
because it would include the assumption of $48M in "certain
liabilities." However, Weiner wrote that "it appears" that
the offer "won't get a serious look" from Twins Owner Carl
Pohlad and his family. Pohlad's son, Bob Pohlad: "We've got
the agreement with [NC business exec Don] Beaver" (STAR
TRIBUNE, 11/22). Columnist Sid Hartman: "Pohlad won't sell
the team to Clark Griffith. There isn't any love lost
between Pohlad and the Griffith family" (STAR TRIBUNE,
11/23). Twins execs predict "at least" a $3M increase in
operating losses for the '98 season in MN should the team
agree to move to NC in '99. The team estimates it lost an
estimated $8-10M in '97 (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 11/24).
Isiah Thomas left Toronto Friday with "a sharp warning"
for Raptors management, saying the team should "make peace
with the Maple Leafs or risk extinction," according to Jim
Byers of the TORONTO STAR. Thomas said that the decision to
build Air Canada Centre without the Leafs as partners "was a
mistake that hobbled the team financially and will have an
impact on the club's future." Thomas: "We should have paid
the $20 million or $25 million to the NBA (for not starting
the building on time), played in the SkyDome and put the
money (saved by building a joint arena) into players."
Raptors Majority Owner Allan Slaight, who "took a parting
shot" when he called Thomas "an interesting piece of work,"
discussed the arena: "The Air Canada Centre is well-
financed. ... There will certainly be money available to go
out and get players" (TORONTO STAR, 11/22). CNN/SI's Jackie
MacMullan, on Thomas' resignation: "By keeping that 9%
[ownership stake], what happened was with the construction
of this new arena it was costing him almost a million
dollars a month, and Isiah just doesn't have that kind of
money" ("This Week in the NBA," CNN, 11/23).
MORE FROM ISIAH: Thomas: "I definitely should have
investigated my partners more carefully before I came to
another country to do business. ... I didn't have enough
information of ... Allan Slaight or (former president) John
Bitove. The picture that was painted to me was very rosy.
... But I didn't do the proper due diligence" (Bill Harris,
TORONTO SUN, 11/22). Thomas' agent Frank Vuono said that it
"appeared to us, (the Raptors) were going to fire (Thomas)."
Slaight "emphatically" denied that (TORONTO SUN, 11/22).
REAX: In Toronto, Chris Young: "Right up till the end,
the smoothie Thomas pretty much kept his cool. ... Now it's
Slaight's turn to prove that his way is going to work.
We're all waiting" (TORONTO STAR, 11/22). Also in Toronto,
Ken Fidlin: "The only nugget of hard truth to cling to in
all of this is that the Raptors, in their third year of
operation, have been dealt a serious setback on the court,
in the minds of the ticket-buying public and in the minds of
NBA players who might one day have decided to come play
here" (TORONTO SUN, 11/22). Also in Toronto, Steve Simmons:
"The real question of the Thomas-Allan Slaight trouble is
this: Which of the two could you trust?" (SUN, 11/23).
PACKERS: Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones, who has "ruffled
feathers among other owners" with his efforts to
decentralize NFLP, wants the Packers to "show the same kind
of aggressiveness in their marketing scheme that they did in
developing an $80 million stock plan," according to Tom
Silverstein of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Jones: "The
Packers are an example of a team that could take some of the
things that I'm an advocate of -- marketing, national
marketing -- and really benefit from that because they have
a national identity." Silverstein: "The way the Packers see
it, they have benefited greatly from revenue-sharing --
perhaps more than any other team ... and they don't want to
spit in the face of their benefactor." Packers President
Bob Harlan noted the team did hire NY-based National Media
Group "to explore national possibilities. ... But we did it
within league specifications" (JOURNAL SENTINEL, 11/21).
COURT DATES: The new get-tough policy at Philadelphia's
Veterans Stadium, which included two municipal judges
handing out fines on the spot, yielded twenty arrests "most
for disorderly conduct" and individual fines "ranging from"
$150-300. Previous home games "typically ended with 60
ejections." One "shackled defendant" yelled, "Howard Stern
rules!" as he entered the court (DAILY NEWS, 11/24).
BROWNS: A "source inside the NFL" told Tony Grossi of
the Cleveland PLAIN-DEALER that there have been "recent
discussions" between Cleveland business exec Al Lerner and
former Browns QB Bernie Kosar about "combining forces to
pursue the Browns expansion team." Neither man could be
reached for comment (Cleveland PLAIN-DEALER, 11/23).
BEARS: The Bears reported 22,989 no-shows for
yesterday's home game against the Bucs (SUN-TIMES, 11/24).