Mario Lemieux's agent Tom Reich, responding to a column
Tuesday by Al Strachan of the Toronto Sun, said that Lemieux
"won't be resuming his playing career anytime soon, if
ever," according to Dave Molinari of the PITTSBURGH POST-
GAZETTE. Reich: "I'll never say never ... but he isn't
going to be playing any hockey" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE,
5/27). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont writes that Penguins
co-Owner Roger Marino called the story "baloney," but would
not comment on any specifics of Lemieux's contract. Marino
also declined comment on the legal action that Lemieux has
taken in the last two weeks "aimed at getting the money he
says Marino owes him" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/27). On Tuesday,
Strachan cited sources who said the Penguins "owe Lemieux
$35[M] U.S. -- money which he earned during his career but
which he agreed to take on a deferred basis." Another
source said that Lemieux's deals "were personal-service
deals" with Penguins co-Owner Howard Baldwin, who was
running the team at the time, and added that "there was
always a lot of secrecy about them" (TORONTO SUN, 5/26).
The Vikings Board of Directors decided on Monday "to
put the franchise up for sale again and will accept open,
cash bids for 100 percent of the stock in the holding
company," according to Greg Johnson of the ST. PAUL PIONEER
PRESS. Bidders have until July 1 to make an offer, but
Johnson wrote that "doesn't mean a transaction can't be
completed" before that date. Many of the team's owners
"believe" that the successful bid "will be in the area" of
Tom Clancy's earlier $200M offer (PIONEER PRESS, 5/26).
IN THE RED: San Antonio businessman Red McCombs, who
made a $176M offer for the team before Clancy, said that he
"has not decided if he will make a new offer." McCombs said
he saw "no reason for any real haste" with the July 1
deadline set, and he will "probably wait until" then to make
any offer (STAR TRIBUNE, 5/27). But Vikings co-Owner Jaye
Dyer said that "concerns have been aired" among the team's
board about McCombs' intentions should he successfully bid
for the franchise, adding "there has been speculation ...
that anything he does would be intended to maybe eventually
end up in San Antonio" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 5/27).
NO FROM SNIDER: Flyers Chair Ed Snider, a rumored
candidate, said yesterday that he has "no interest" in
bidding for the Vikings (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 5/27).
Cleveland natives Charles and Larry Dolan announced
that Bill Cosby has become an equity investor in the Dolan
family owner-applicant group which is seeking to purchase
the new Browns franchise. If the bid is successful, the
group announced that Larry Dolan would hold 30% of the total
equity and act as the sole general partner, with majority
voting control and complete management authority. Charles
Dolan would also hold a 30% stake, but would be a limited
partner. Dolan Family Trusts would hold a 30% equity stake,
and Cosby would be a limited partner, with a 5% stake. The
remaining 5% is being held in reserve (Dolans).
HEY, HEY, HEY: In Akron, David Adams wrote that the
addition of Cosby, whose net worth was estimated at $300M in
'96, "unofficially thrusts the Dolan effort to the head of
the pack" of groups vying for ownership of the Browns.
Although Cosby has no local ties to Cleveland, he "does add
a minority member to the group," something that NFL owners
and Commissioner Paul Tagliabue "consider to be a powerful
factor" in its favor (BEACON JOURNAL, 5/23). Also in Akron,
Terry Pluto wrote that the addition of Cosby to the Dolan
group "rings hollow" and looks like an attempt "to tell the
NFL 'Hey, we have a minority owner, too.'" Pluto added that
while the Dolan group and the Paul Warfield/ Calvin
Hill/Howard Milstein group "will probably end up" as the
finalists for the Browns, "[d]on't count out" Cleveland
businessman Al Lerner. Pluto wrote that Indians Owner Dick
Jacobs, however, is "disenchanted" with the bidding process,
and plans to "remain on the sideline and see what develops"
(Terry Pluto, AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 5/24).
The NHL Oilers are "fast running out of time" in their
drive to sell at least 13,000 season tickets by May 31 in
order to qualify for $2.5M from the NHL's Canadian
Assistance Plan. With five days remaining, the team has
sold "about" 11,400 tickets (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 5/27).
...Saturday's MLS MetroStars-Fusion game drew 56,404 to
Giants Stadium, the biggest crowd in MetroStars history.
The game was followed by an exhibition match between
Colombia and Scotland (Bergen RECORD, 5/24)....MLB "shot
down a proposal" by Hamilton County Treasurer Robert Goering
that the county buy Marge Schott's controlling shares of the
Reds. Acting Commissioner Bud Selig: "I don't see that
happening" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/22)....In N.Y., Jay
Glazer reported that final NFL attendance numbers showed the
Jets trailed only the Chiefs and Broncos in total attendance
figures for home and away games in '97 (N.Y. POST, 5/24).
....The Flyers have invited Hayley Wickenheiser, one of
Canada's "top female ice hockey players," to the team's
prospects camp (USA TODAY, 5/27).
Blue Jays Chair & CEO Sam Pollock told a House of
Commons committee on the future of sports in Canada that the
Blue Jays and all Canadian pro teams "are in financial
peril," according to William Walker of the TORONTO STAR.
Pollock said that the Blue Jays lost $35M in FY '97 and that
he "forecasts a similar loss this year." He added that the
team "started losing money in 1993 and hasn't been
profitable since." But throughout his appearance Pollock
"insisted" that the team was not asking for "government
concessions" (TORONTO STAR, 5/26). He cited the low
Canadian dollar, the "bad deal" between the government and
business when the SkyDome was built, and the amount of taxes
the Jays pay as "key reasons" behind its struggles, and
added that "every time the Canadian dollar drops one cent,
it costs the Jays $600,000" (CALGARY SUN, 5/26).
The Knicks are "increasing" ticket prices by 10-12.5%
next season, with the top tickets increasing by $100, to a
"whopping" $1,350 per seat per game, according to Kevin
Kernan of the N.Y. POST. In a letter to season-ticket
holders, MSG CEO Dave Checketts wrote that the increases
were necessary "to keep pace with the growing cost of
maintaining our talented roster in such a competitive
marketplace." Courtside seats will now run $58,050 per seat
for the season. The most affordable ticket at MSG will rise
from $20 a game this year to $22 next season, and a seat
that was $200 will now cost $220. Kernan added that the
$220 seat "was $25 a decade ago" (N.Y. POST, 5/26).
C Mike Piazza's second game as a Met helped the team
enjoy its "first sellout in five years," according to Steve
Popper of the N.Y. TIMES. Sunday's game drew a paid crowd
of 47,291, and, including 8,484 giveaways, the ballpark was
at its 55,775 capacity. On Saturday, Piazza's Mets debut
attracted a crowd of 32,908. The team announced that 21,400
tickets were sold for the two games after Friday's trade
with the Marlins was announced (N.Y. TIMES, 5/25). The Mets
had been averaging 17,601 before Friday's trade. The average
attendance for the two weekend games was 40,100 (N.Y. POST,
5/25). In N.Y., Claire Smith wrote that, in trading for
Piazza, the Mets have "finally graduated from Off Broadway"
and "now have the star of the show" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/23).
Also in N.Y., George Vecsey wrote that Mets management has
been feeling the "immense pressure of empty seats and
yapping voices and the graceful juggernaut in the Bronx."
Mets co-Owner Fred Wilpon, on Piazza: "This town is ready.
They love him already. He could be like Willie Mays or
Mickey Mantle to this town" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/23).
BACK IN FL: In spite of "all the negativity around the
Marlins," Miami Mayor Joe Carollo said that he wants the
Marlins to "build a stadium next to the Heat's new arena,"
and added that he is "willing to consider using public money
to do it," according to Barry Jackson of the MIAMI HERALD.
But Jackson wrote that the city "is in no position" to
contribute toward a retractable-dome stadium, as it is
"recovering from a financial crisis" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/25).
Stars Owner Tom Hicks "expects" MLB to approve his
purchase of the Rangers at a June 12 owners' meeting in
Seattle, an action that will allow him "to proceed with his
plans to assemble his sports assets into one company,"
according to Alm & Kirkpatrick of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS.
Hicks said that he "still intends to package" the Rangers,
Stars, an "as-yet-to-be-created [RSN] and perhaps other
assets into a public company." The company will "be
financed privately initially" but Hicks said "[a]t the right
time, we'll consider accessing the public so our fans can
own some of the teams with us." An IPO "may" come in the
next 12-36 months (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/23). In Toronto,
Damien Cox called the Stars "one of the NHL big boys now,"
and that if Hicks "has his way, they'll soon be a giant."
(TORONTO STAR, 5/25). In Ft. Worth, Simon Gonzalez wrote
that the Stars have sold out every playoff game thus far and
are the "hottest thing around." Stars President Jim Lites
said "if [TV] and attendance are indicators," the team is
"getting closer to" the MLB Rangers in popularity, and is
"past basketball, by a long shot" (STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/26).
WHO'S DOING HIS PR? In N.Y., Carlos Tejada wrote that
Hicks' new consolidated sports company "would seek
advertising with the promise of a national network of radio
and [TV] outlets and possibly billboards," and would "give
the laconic Mr. Hicks an impressive sports and media empire"
(WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/26). Hicks was also profiled by
Allen Myerson of the N.Y. TIMES, who wrote that Hicks "has
transformed" the Stars into a Stanley Cup contender, and
"plans to pit" Fox against Disney/ESPN "[t]o compete for
rights to carry" the Rangers and Stars on cable through a
partnership with his planned RSN (N.Y. TIMES, 5/25).