The NHL BOG yesterday "unanimously approved" a bid to purchase the Blues made by a group of St. Louis investors led by team minority Owner Tom Stillman, according to Jeremy Rutherford of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. The final step "is the closing of the sale, which is scheduled for today." Stillman, who has been a minority owner since '07, will be "introduced at a news conference Thursday at Scottrade Center." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is "expected to be on hand." Stillman's group "will become the eighth owner of the Blues since the franchise's inception," following Dave Checketts/SCP Worldwide ('06-present), Bill Laurie ('99-'06), Kiel Center Partners ('91-99), Mike Shanahan ('86-91), Harry Ornest ('83-86), Ralston Purina ('77-83) and the Salomon family ('66-77). Stillman "will pay an estimated" $130M for the team, which was purchased in '06 for $150M (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/9). In St. Louis, Jeff Gordon wrote Blues President of Hockey Operations John Davidson "was Checketts' guy," and the Checketts-Stillman relationship became "chilly." Gordon asks, "Will there still be a place for [Davidson] in the grand scheme of things? Let's hope so, because this is the man who devised and executed the plan that brought the Blues from dead last in the NHL to the Elite Eight." Under Davidson, the franchise also "engaged disenchanted fans and drew them back into the building" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/9).
A LITTLE HELP PLEASE: In Winnipeg, Gary Lawless writes prospective Coyotes Owner Greg Jamison "wants to negotiate a 20-year lease with a bloated arena management fee" that would have the city of Glendale "continue to prop up" the club. Before the Jets' relocation from Atlanta last summer, Winnipeg residents "were asked to put their cards on the table and end the suspense over whether they would support the NHL." Doing the same in Phoenix "right now would seem smart except Bettman knows what the answer would be and likely doesn't want to hear it." Lawless: "Blame it on bad management. Blame it on bad arena location. Blame it on anything you want." Lawless adds, "None of that changes the reality that has the City of Glendale and its municipal government are clinging to the Coyotes despite the obvious financial hardship brought upon its citizens." If the Coyotes are "going to stay in Arizona, someone has to help." A show of interest "like Winnipeg's Drive to 13,000 from a year ago would let us all know if that help is there" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/9).
A buzz is "building all around" L.A. for the eight-seeded NHL Kings, who are "halfway to hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history," according to Greg Beacham of the AP. Nineteen years after Hockey HOFers Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille "turned Hollywood into a hockey town," Kings RW Dustin Brown and G Jonathan Quick "are doing it again." The team has advanced to the Conference Finals "only once before in 44 seasons since the club joined the NHL" in '67, and L.A.'s "confluence of sports and entertainment is firmly behind the Kings." Although they "can’t match the Lakers for celebrity magnetism, the Kings regularly get a wide variety of stars in their stands ranging from Tom Hanks and Kurt Russell to Rob Zombie and Alyssa Milano." Dodgers partner and Basketball HOFer Magic Johnson, Lakers G Kobe Bryant, MLS Galaxy MF Landon Donovan, Dodgers CF Matt Kemp and RF Andre Ethier "all appeared in promotional videos to pump up the Kings’ crowd" during the Western Conference Semifinal series against the Blues. "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone "frequently whip out short animations for the Staples Center scoreboard in which Cartman and his buddies taunt the Kings’ opponents." The Kings are the first eight seed to beat the top two seeds "in the same playoffs, and just the third No. 8 seed ever to get beyond the second round" (AP, 5/7). In California, Eric Stephens noted the Kings "realize how much excitement they're generating." Kings D Drew Doughty said, "I've lived here for four years. My first couple of years, you could do anything you wanted around where we live. ... But now it's a whole different story. We're making a presence in L.A. and we're loving it" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 5/6).
Trail Blazers Owner Paul Allen yesterday posted an open letter to fans on the team's official website, calling this season “one of the most disappointing years I've had in my 24 seasons as owner.” The team missed the playoffs after going 28-38, and dealt with several losses, including G Brandon Roy's retirement prior to the season due to chronic injuries, former No. 1 overall draft pick C Greg Oden's release following a host of injuries and the team's termination of coach Nate McMillan. Allen wrote, “The best thing I can say about this season was at least it was short." He added, "One thing we are not going to do is to spend money like there is no tomorrow, and calls to do so just don't make sense. I've tried that path before -- it doesn't work and is not sustainable. We will follow a judicious and sustainable path going forward. We are also working to appoint a permanent general manager." Allen: "We are now talking with viable candidates and I have already done my first interview. We're moving forward thoughtfully because we must ensure we have the right fit. Ideally, we'd like to have someone in place before the draft and before we decide on a permanent coach, but finding the right executive may take time." Allen wrote, "By talking about the future of the Blazers, I know it will raise questions about my continued ownership of the team. Let me be clear and repeat what I've said before: The team is not for sale. I'm working hard to get this team back on track. No offers have been made to buy the team and none have been solicited." Allen added, "It's very encouraging that season ticket renewals are exceeding our expectations and are just one percent behind where they were at this point last year" (NBA.com, 5/8).
Royals Owner David Glass said that he has "no interest in selling even a minority share of the club." Glass said of rumors that he is seeking a deal, "Nonsense. I’ve never spoken to anyone about selling the club. I have no idea where that comes from. Who knows? But I have not been contacted by anyone." He added, "If anybody tells you that they understand we’re trying to sell the club, you ask them, ‘to whom?’ I’ve not talked to anyone, nor has any of my family talked to anyone. I don’t understand where this stuff comes from" (K.C. STAR, 5/9).
PLAYOFF PACE: In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz writes just as the city "slowly discovered" the Pacers this season, the team's defeat of the Magic in the first round of the NBA Playoffs means now a "national audience will discover" why they had the league's fifth-best record. Pacers coach Frank Vogel said, "This is a huge step for the franchise." Kravitz writes Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird and his front office deserve credit. Kravitz: "Give Frank Vogel, who needs to have the third year of his contract guaranteed (and now) credit. And give these players credit for turning themselves into the type of team -- emphasis on team -- that this city and region can embrace without hesitation" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/9). TNT’s Reggie Miller said, “Larry Bird should get Executive of the Year for bringing in David West and really changing the culture. That building is rocking and the city of Indianapolis is poppin’ again” (“Celtics-Hawks,” TNT, 5/8).
TIME TO PONDER: Magic GM Otis Smith said yesterday that he "hasn't given extensive thought [to] whether he even wants to return" to his role next season. Smith said, "I haven't gotten into it. I'll have a conversation with a few people following the end of the season, and we'll see where we go from there." Smith, whose contract runs through '12-13, "emphasized that he re-evaluates his own situation after every season" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/9).
OUT OF RANGE: In London, Mike Wade notes a "torrent of e-mail abuse from fans helped persuade" Miller Industries Chair Bill Miller to withdraw his offer for Scottish Premier League club Rangers "just four days after he was announced as preferred bidder." The American businessman was "stunned by the vitriolic reaction from fans" following his $18M offer for the club. Underlying Miller's "refusal to proceed, however, was the simple fact that he had underestimated the calamitous state of Rangers' finances." Club 9 Sports CEO John Pritchett, an adviser to Miller, said "contingency liabilities" were a third factor in the decision (LONDON TIMES, 5/9). In England, Ewan Murray notes Rangers administrators "responded with an unspecific claim that they have had three fresh notes of interest" in the club since Miller was named preferred bidder. However, the club faces a "race against time to find new ownership, with existing funding secured only until the end of this season" (GUARDIAN, 5/9).