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Volume 24 No. 156


Pegula says front office will
not have any financial restraints
Terry Pegula, who was officially introduced as Sabres owner yesterday, said that he "will dip into his deep pockets to bring a championship team to Buffalo," according to Alan Adams of Pegula: "If I want to make some money, I'll go drill a gas well. Starting today, the Buffalo Sabres' reason for existence will be to win a Stanley Cup." Pegula added, "I don't know if it's wise to spend to the cap every year. But we're not in this to save money, that's for sure." After saying that GM Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff "will be back," Pegula "all but promised a blank check to Regier." Pegula: "Darcy will run a hockey department that I have previously said will have no financial mandates. We're cutting the chains off and he's free to run with whatever he wants to do with scouting, player development, working with Lindy and the coaches. We're going to pour some resources into that area of the team. There is no salary cap in the National Hockey League on scouting budgets and player-development budgets. I plan on increasing, working with Darcy and the guys, increasing our scouting budget with bodies on the ground in areas we might not be hitting, and enhancing our video department. ... We will aspire to be the best in the league at finding, developing and keeping our players in their new Buffalo Sabre family" (, 2/22). Pegula will serve as CEO of the Sabres. Former FSN Pittsburgh Senior VP & GM and former Penguins VP/Business & Legal Affairs Ted Black will serve as President, while former Penguins CEO Ken Sawyer will serve as a Senior Adviser. Sabres COO Dan DiPofi, "who had a minor ownership stake under Golisano," will remain in his position (, 2/22).  

WHATEVER IT TAKES: Pegula on Versus' "NHL Overtime" last night said "the chains are off." Pegula: "It's pedal to the metal. I said today there'll be no financial mandates on our hockey department -- scouting, player development -- and I meant that. I'm going to do whatever it takes financially within a reasonable means. Nobody likes to waste money, but if we're going to lose money and spend too much, it's going to be on the scouting and player development side." Versus' Jeremy Roenick said Pegula is "exactly what the National Hockey League and Gary Bettman wants in Buffalo." Versus' Billy Jaffe said "Buffalo gets kind of a bad rap," but players "love playing there." If you have a "hands-on, energetic owner, it's only going to raise the profile of that team" ("NHL Overtime," Versus, 2/22).

NO. 1 FAN: In Buffalo, John Vogl writes Pegula's introduction was an "unquestioned success in HSBC Arena." He "laughed, cried and proved himself to be a Buffalo guy, albeit one with deep pockets" (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/23). Also in Buffalo, Mike Harrington writes the "signature moment" of Pegula's introduction was when he said that he "couldn't look to his right." He "couldn't look at the section of the HSBC Arena atrium where the team's alumni were sitting because once he saw Gilbert Perreault, he'd break down and cry." But Pegula "did look," and he told Perrault, "You're my hero." And "then he did cry." Harrington: "His love for the old Sabres certainly will help Pegula connect with the alumni, who became increasingly distressed by the reign of Tom Golisano and Larry Quinn" (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/23). NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who introduced Pegula, said, "He loves the game and this is a dream come true for him. It's also a dream come true for the league because we know this franchise is in great hands" (AP, 2/22).

FRESH SET OF EYES: In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason writes Pegula is a "diehard fan, but the key to reaching the goal will be making sure he doesn't operate like one." The Sabres "will need an objective evaluation as they move forward to ensure sentiment doesn't cloud their judgment," and Pegula "took a step toward juggling both after hiring" Black and Sawyer. Both men "have good reputations and sound experience, something that had been missing behind ... Regier for much of his tenure." Black and Sawyer "bring a fresh set of eyes from the outside to examine the organization" (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/23). Also in Buffalo, Jerry Sullivan writes Sabres fans are "ready for real change, for a fresh start." They have "had enough of the slow, tentative approach." Sullivan: "Leave Regier in the GM's chair for now if you have to. But this team needs to be judged through a fresh set of eyes, someone with no emotional ties to anyone on the roster. The sooner the job comes open, the better. That way, any potential candidates will know the Buffalo job is available and the wheels of change can begin to turn" (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/23).

Allen & Co. Managing Dir Steve Greenberg said that the Mets owners are "not wedded to selling a specific share of the team as long as they hold the majority," according to Sandomir & Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. Mets Owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz have insisted that they "want to maintain control of the franchise" and sell a 20-25% stake, but the statement from Greenberg, advising the Mets on the sale, "appears to be a sign of growing flexibility." Greenberg said, "Let’s just say that a noncontrolling stake could be north of 25 percent." Several potential investors who have "stepped forward publicly and others who have formed groups privately have said they want either a majority share of the team or an option to obtain control of the club over time." Some of those bidders have applied to MLB "to be approved to examine the Mets' books." They must "prove that they have the financial wherewithal to buy the one-quarter share being sold -- a stake that could cost at least $100 million -- and the background that will make the other 29 owners comfortable with them." Sandomir & Belson note "all sorts of hypothetical sales packages are being floated by executives in the sports investment industry." Some suggest that the Wilpons and Katz could sell 51% of the Mets "over several years," or ownership could "sell only 25 percent of the team but throw in 15 percent" of SportsNet N.Y. The Mets also could sell 25% of the team "but insist on getting a put option from the buyer that allows them to sell another 26 percent to the new investors at an agreed-upon price anytime over the next three years." Potential buyers also could "ask for a call option, which would give them the right to buy a larger stake." But it is "unlikely that Wilpon would give the buyer of a minority stake the leverage to buy control of the team" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/23).

NOTHING TO SEE HERE: On Long Island, David Lennon notes with the Mets' ownership group facing a $1B lawsuit from the trustee in the Bernie Madoff case, MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner "has a responsibility to make sure that his members' checks won't bounce -- regardless of the outcome -- and he confirmed that wouldn't be a problem." Making the second stop of his Spring Training tour, Weiner said, "We want to make sure all contractual obligations to the players are honored, and we've been assured through the commissioner's office that's the case." He added, "It's in the interests of everybody associated with baseball that the National League franchise in New York be a strong franchise" (NEWSDAY, 2/23). Weiner added that he believes the Wilpons and Katz were "still able to pursue expensive free agents when they chose to do so" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/23).

COURT REPORT: Mets ownership in a court filing yesterday "continued to push" Irving Picard, Madoff's trustee, to "turn over documents and testimony that provide the basis for his lawsuit." Lawyers for the Mets owners claim that they "need access to expedited information from Mr. Picard after a judge earlier this month appointed former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo to mediate the legal dispute" (, 2/22). Meanwhile, the N.Y. TIMES' Belson reported two Mets fans are selling blue T-shirts with "Madoff" printed on the front in orange text, "evoking the 'Mets' emblazoned on the team's uniforms." The fans' website,, went live last week and the "first few dozen shirts were quickly sold for $20 each." Since then, "several hundred more have been ordered." The creators, "longtime Mets fans who asked not to be named because they did not want their professional reputations compromised," developed the idea "mostly as a way to laugh at the absurdity of the Mets’ situation" (, 2/22).

Knicks ticket prices "skyrocketed in value" yesterday in the wake of the team's acquisition of F Carmelo Anthony, according to Anthony Sulla-Heffinger of the N.Y. POST. Secondary ticket tracking website indicated that the "average Knicks ticket for the rest of this season has gone up" more than 60%. Knicks ticket prices "were averaging $311.55 yesterday afternoon, nearly $100 above the $217 they were averaging before the trade." Meanwhile, TiqIQ indicated that tickets for tonight's Bucks-Knicks game at MSG, expected to be Anthony's debut with the team, "went up 260 percent overnight" to an average of $571.39 (N.Y. POST, 2/23). On Long Island, Neil Best notes listed tickets for tonight's game that ranged from "$10,000 apiece courtside" to a "low of $120 apiece at the highest levels of the Garden, behind one of the baskets" (NEWSDAY, 2/23). In N.Y., Rich Schapiro notes prices for the game "tripled in less than 48 hours." Seats that cost "about $50 over the weekend were selling for $170 at, and the average ticket price shot up from $91 to $260." StubHub Corporate Communications Manager Joellen Ferrer: "This is absolutely a result of the excitement for Melo." Meanwhile, Schapiro notes Anthony will wear the No. 7 jersey, and "about 150 replicas and 700 name and number T-shirts will be on sale today at Modell's sporting goods stores in Times Square, Grand Central Terminal and Herald Square." Modell's Senior VP/Marketing Jed Berger: "The customer demand has been unbelievable already" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/23).

UNITED FRONT? Knicks President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh yesterday said that he was "reluctant at times to make the three-team, 12-player trade" that resulted in the acquisition of Anthony. But he insisted that the "final call was his to make, without pressure" from Knicks Owner James Dolan or interference from Florida Int'l Univ. men's basketball coach and former Knicks President of Basketball Operations Isiah Thomas. He said of Dolan potentially consulting Thomas, "I could care less. There are a lot of people who talk to owners, all right?" Walsh "spoke earnestly and at times enthusiastically about the trade," and he added that his "autonomy had never been threatened." Walsh said of Dolan, "We worked together." But in N.Y., Howard Beck writes that is "not the portrayal offered by some of Walsh's friends and others who do business with the Knicks" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/23). ESPN's Chris Broussard said Dolan "gets his basketball knowledge" from Thomas, and added Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni "really didn't want to give up all that they did to get" Anthony. Broussard: "There's not a civil war going on between these two groups, but there was a difference of opinion" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 2/22). In N.Y., George Willis writes if Dolan "wants to put an exclamation point on the portrait of solidarity, he will pick up Walsh's extension for next year instead of letting his status linger until after the season" (N.Y. POST, 2/23).

: On Long Island, Alan Hahn cites sources as saying that Thomas "was consulted in the Anthony trade, which was completed" by Dolan Monday. But one source said that Thomas' impact "has been overstated" (NEWSDAY, 2/23). In N.Y, David Waldstein notes Thomas yesterday "would not address whether he talked with Dolan during the process," though he "acknowledged that he and Dolan remain friends." Thomas: "I always want to see the Knicks do well, and I want to see Jim do well" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/23).

HITS KEEP COMING FOR PROKHOROV: The Nets reportedly traded for Jazz G Deron Williams this morning, but Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov has been getting criticized by the media for failing to land Anthony. ESPN's Jim Rome said Prokhorov "got played badly" in the Anthony talks. Rome: "This is a really bad look for the alleged most interesting cat in the world. He tried to get out but allowed himself to get sucked back in and then he got worked. … Now he's trying to sell that it was a good tactical move since he forced the Knicks to pay more than they wanted to." Rome added, "The Nets are looking more like the Clippers East than ever before" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 2/22). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said of Dolan and Prokhorov, "They both wanted Carmelo and Dolan got him. They both went big into free agency last year, and Dolan got Amar'e and Prokhorov went squadoosh." He added of Prokhorov, "He's talking and talking and he's not delivering on any level. Right now, he's just a tall guy with an interesting accent" ("PTI," ESPN, 2/22). SportsNet N.Y.'s Brandon Tierney: "Prokhorov doesn't know a damn thing about the inner workings of the NBA and quite frankly, it's showing" ("Wheel House," SportsNet N.Y., 2/22). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, "This is a guy that came in and put billboards next to Madison Square Garden saying we're going to build a dynasty. How is this a dynasty? Couldn't get LeBron James, couldn't get Carmelo Anthony." But L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said Prokhorov "is one of the winners in the whole sweepstakes," as he "got involved just in time at the end in order to raise the price enough so the Knicks to give away the farm" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/22). 

Two days after the NBA confirmed that the Kings are in talks to relocate to Anaheim, Sacramento city officials were "struggling Tuesday to get a read on the team's intentions," according to a front-page piece by Kasler & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. R.E. Graswich, a spokesperson for Kevin Johnson, said that the Sacramento Mayor "hasn't spoken with the Maloofs, who own the Kings, in about four weeks." Graswich added that the Maloofs "haven't provided the mayor with any details about their talks with officials at Anaheim's Honda Center." Developer David Taylor, "deputized by the City Council to study the feasibility of a new arena in Sacramento, said through a spokesman he hasn't yet met with the Maloofs but hopes to do so soon." Johnson reiterated that he is "committed to keeping the Kings in Sacramento." But he added, "We are not going to be used as leverage. We are not going to be sitting here giving all our cards to the Maloofs so they can negotiate with some other city and try to get a better deal." Kasler & Bizjak note "relocating the Kings would cost a lot of money." Sacramento City Treasurer Russ Fehr yesterday said that the Maloofs "would have to pay off the $67 million they owe the city of Sacramento, plus a $9 million early repayment fee." Also, the NBA "generally charges a relocation fee, although that varies." NBA Senior VP/Basketball Communications Tim Frank said that the Kings "wouldn't have to pay" the Clippers or Lakers to move into the Southern California market (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/23).

LOOKING AT THE CALENDAR: In California, Randy Youngman reports while the NBA's stated deadline for relocation application is March 1, there are "growing indications that the Maloofs will ask for an extension on the deadline because of unresolved issues as the protracted negotiations continue" with Anaheim Arena Management, the company that operates Honda Center for the City of Anaheim. Months of "talks between the Maloofs and Honda Center officials have intensified to the point that a final decision is expected in March." But it also is "possible there might not be an announcement until April because the Kings' regular-season home schedule doesn't end until an April 13 game against the Lakers" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 2/23). Johnson said, "We're all looking at the calendar in a way we haven't before. We can only control what we can control." He added the Maloofs in previous conversations have never "drawn a line in the sand" about leaving town. But Johnson also said that he "recognizes the Maloof family are business people and have to make the decision that is right for them" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/23). A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial states, "Before a breakup, the Maloofs ought to wait for the results of a study, due in May, on whether an arena is financially feasible. They should also be talking directly to city leaders" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/23).

WITHOUT A KING? In Sacramento, Marcos Breton writes, "This community needs a new arena and entertainment complex whether the Kings leave or stay. ... A Kings departure leaves a gaping hole and crummy building -- wounds Sacramento will undoubtedly seek to heal one day with a new building" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/23). Economists and regional business leaders believe that the Kings' departure "could have both an economic and psychic impact on a community already slammed by the housing downturn and state government cutbacks." Johnson yesterday indicated that Arco Arena "generates about $1 million a year in property taxes." He added that the team "at one point employed 1,000 full- and part-time employees" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/23).

DON'T GO AWAY: ESPN's Michael Smith said the possibility the Kings relocating to Anaheim "makes me sad." Smith: "Sacramento is one of the great home court advantages in the league. I know it hasn't had a lot of success this year, but I mean the cowbell at Arco Arena is loud” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 2/22). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said the NBA, “because of cities like San Antonio, Portland, Salt Lake City, Milwaukee, they've enjoyed this certain reputation, a certain sense that, 'Yes, we can exist and do it well in these places.' … I like them in Sacramento." But ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said, The bloom is off the rose in Sacramento now.” He added, “I'm not that worried of having a bunch of teams in Southern California, but they're going to be obliterated by the Lakers and ... by Blake Griffin for as long as he plays for the Clippers" ("PTI," ESPN, 2/22).

Jets Exec VP/Business Operations Matt Higgins revealed that the team is "raising ticket prices for the 2011 season" by an average of 2.3%, according to Mark Cannizzaro of the N.Y. POST. Tickets requiring PSLs "are being raised $5 across the board and there also are increases for the luxury suite seats." The only seats "not affected by an increase are those in the upper bowl of New Meadowlands Stadium." In addition, the price of "parking in the outer orange lots will be reduced from $25 to $15 for existing season-ticket holders and fans with seats in the upper bowl also will have the option, on a first-come, first-served basis, to upgrade to vacant spots in the closer yellow lots, costing $25." The Jets also will "implement a contingency plan to account for the possibility of a lockout." Instead of fans "being required to pay for their season tickets in full by April 1, which is the normal policy, fans can pay 50 percent by that April 1." They would "not be responsible for the rest until a new CBA is reached and the league announces when training camp will begin." If any games are cancelled as the result of a lockout, season-ticket prices "would be prorated accordingly and fans will get refunds for the football they miss" (N.Y. POST, 2/23). In Newark, Jenny Vrentas reported the "upper bowl prices are remaining flat because of fan feedback on improvements that needed to be made." The Jets, Giants and New Meadowlands Stadium will "team to add additional shelter to the upper bowl concourses in the end zone as well as 40 percent more capacity to the men's restrooms in the upper bowl, reconfiguring and adding urinals to relieve long lines." Higgins said, "We think there are some significant steps we can take to improve the experience, and until we do that, we've decided to hold those prices flat" (, 2/22). Jets Owner Woody Johnson "toured the upper level concourse in the rain toward the end of the regular season before determining that more shelter from the inclement weather was needed" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/23).

Bob Nutting "believes the Pirates are better now than they were a year ago and vowed the team's budget will be big enough to make them even better," according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW. The team owner said Monday, "We're in a great position right now. We are not handcuffed to where we have to make moves we don't want to make or we are unable to make moves we do want to make, purely because of financial reasons." Payroll this season for the 40-man roster will be around $45M, "among the lowest in the majors." The figure "likely will go up," as many of the younger players such as CF Andrew McCutchen and LF Jose Tabata "approach arbitration and free agency." Nutting said that the team, which has the first overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft, "will not be limited by monetary concerns." Nutting: "We certainly will not be in a position where we select based on dollars or signability. We're going to select for the greatest impact." Nutting spoke to Pirates players Monday "for about 15 minutes during a closed-door team meeting." Nutting: "The message this year was a change in level of expectation." Meanwhile, Biertempfel noted Pirates GM Neal Huntington's contract "expires after this season and no extension has been offered." Pirates President Frank Coonelly said that Huntington's status "will be evaluated during the year" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 2/22). When asked "whose head is on the block" if the Pirates do make progress this season, Nutting said, "It is too early to start speculating. It is not productive and not the right use of energy" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/22).

On Long Island, Boland & Davidoff cite sources as saying that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig called Yankees co-Chair & Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner and President Randy Levine yesterday to "remind them of his gag order on speaking publicly about labor issues" after Yankees co-Chair & General Partner Hank Steinbrenner's comments on Monday. Asked yesterday about Selig's reaction to his comments, Hank Steinbrenner said, "What, you think I'm the only one who ever said anything? He fined John Henry, the owner of the Red Sox, for saying something at one point. The bottom line is I'm not the only one" (NEWSDAY, 2/23). In N.Y., George King III writes, "Has Hank Steinbrenner found his voice again? It had been a while since Steinbrenner made back-page news" (N.Y. POST, 2/23).

MONEY ON MY MIND: In Chicago, Mark Gonzales reports the White Sox' projected $125M payroll for '11 has given Senior VP & GM Ken Williams "plenty of sleepless nights." Williams yesterday said, "Hell no, I'm not comfortable with the payroll right now, we're out on a limb. But that's our choice. We made the choice in an effort to give our fans hope and give ourselves a chance to compete for a championship. If things don't fall our way, if we don't get the support, we'll lose money" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/23). Williams yesterday also "stood by his comments" on Monday that the possibility of Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols earning $30M a year "would be bad for baseball" (, 2/22).

IVY LEAGUE EDUCATION: Cubs P Randy Wells yesterday said team Chair Tom Ricketts and his family are "very hands-on" and "that's a great thing" for the franchise." Wells: "We get Tom's concepts about community and other topics as well. He's very accessible to everyone. Tom is really a down to earth guy. It's a lot easier to play for someone like that." Ricketts, beginning his second season as Cubs Owner, during an address to players on Saturday "shot down" the suggestion that Chicago "has become a White Sox town." Wells: "He said that it's our town, and we need to step it up and play like it is. That's a good message" (, 2/22).

TIME TO REWARD HIM: In Ft. Worth, Gil LeBreton writes Jon Daniels has "more than measured up" during his first five seasons as Rangers GM, which is why team President Nolan Ryan "needs to find time soon to take care of one more piece of lingering off-season business -- Daniels' well-earned contract extension." No "hang-ups have been reported or rumored." Instead, there are "indications that the timing simply hasn't been right." When asked this week about his contract situation, Daniels only said, "I prefer to deal with those things privately" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/23).