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Volume 24 No. 156


San Diego Mayor Bob Filner yesterday said that the Chargers "would not exercise their annual option to leave Qualcomm Stadium," according to a front-page piece by Craig Gustafson of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Filner added that he would "do everything in his power to keep the NFL team, which is seeking a new stadium, from leaving San Diego." Gustafson writes Filner's announcement "was not unexpected" (SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE, 1/16). Chargers Special Counsel Mark Fabiani confirmed that the team will not "file an application to explore a move to Los Angeles." The announcement, coming on the same day the Chargers introduced new coach Mike McCoy, "was expected despite empty seats, TV blackouts, falling revenue and thus-far failed efforts toward a new downtown stadium." The move is "a blow to the NFL hopes of Los Angeles, which is looking to lure a team to town immediately but has no realistic suitors." The Chargers were "at the top of many lists of likely LA franchises given their proximity and stadium struggles." Filner said, "I'm going to do everything I can to make sure our Bolts don't bolt" (AP, 1/15). In L.A., Sam Farmer writes Filner's announcement "is not a guarantee that there will be no NFL in L.A. next season ... nor is it a guarantee the Chargers will never relocate." The Chargers "have to make the same decision whether to stay next season, and each year after unless there’s a change in their lease terms." L.A. at the moment is a "back-burner issue for the league, and probably will continue to be at least until there’s some resolution to the AEG sale" (L.A. TIMES, 1/16). 

IN NEED OF A RE-CHARGE: Chargers President & Chair Dean Spanos said of McCoy and GM Tom Telesco, "We needed change. The dynamic of the two individuals we got is perfect for the change I want." In San Diego, Kevin Acee writes neither McCoy nor Telesco have "held a top job before," so "we don’t know how they’ll do." Spanos, who "seems energized by the process of change, acknowledged he doesn’t know." Acee: "Folks, this is change. And it does seem right." During their respective introductory press conferences, it was "obvious this is without a doubt a different duo." Telesco is "engaging," while McCoy "seizes a room" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/16).

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson yesterday said that he has been “granted an audience” with the NBA BOG to “present a competing bid that would prevent the Maloof family from selling the Kings to a group from Seattle," according to a front-page piece by Lillis, Kasler & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Johnson “plans to present at least one ownership group" directly to the BOG, “probably in mid-April in New York.” Johnson spoke with NBA Commissioner David Stern over the weekend and said that he “wants his plan finalized before the March 1 deadline for the Kings to seek relocation.” Meanwhile, a “powerful ally for Sacramento came forward” yesterday when AEG, which pledged $59M to a downtown arena project abandoned by the Maloofs last spring, said that it is “still committed to the idea.” AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke said of Stern, "To the commissioner's credit, I don't think he ever forgot about Sacramento." He added that Stern “does not like to move franchises.” Leiweke said that AEG will “let the city take the lead on choosing a location for the arena.” Even though AEG has been put up for sale, he said that the company’s “commitment to the Sacramento project hasn't wavered.” Johnson's strategy to match Seattle's bid "isn't just about finding a local group to buy the team.” Johnson said that he “will also try to convince the NBA that Sacramento is the better market for the Kings.” The key to Johnson's plan is “persuading a potential owner to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the Kings and a new downtown arena.” Johnson said the Maloof family "can participate in some way" in the new Sacramento ownership group "if they want to remain a part of this team and this community” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/16). 

SLEEPY IN SEATTLE? In Seattle, Gene Balk noted despite this week’s “press frenzy,” market data shows that the Seattle metro area "has one of the nation’s lowest levels of interest in the NBA.” In surveys conducted during ‘11 and ‘12, only 4.1% of people in the Seattle-Tacoma metro area expressed a "very high" level of interest in the NBA. That ranks Seattle 75th out of "the 78 major markets surveyed." The area’s enthusiasm for pro basketball is “lower now than in many cities that never had a team at all.” The percentage of “hardcore NBA fans" in the Seattle-Tacoma metro area is 62% below the national average, which “couldn’t get much worse.” In '05, three seasons before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City, the market "only ranked 27th for the percent of the population with the highest level of interest in the NBA." That number was 10% below "the national average that year” (, 1/15). Also in Seattle, Levi Pulkkinen reported a longtime opponent of new stadiums has “sued the city of Seattle in an effort to stop the city from helping to fund a basketball and hockey arena proposed for the Sodo neighborhood.” Mark Baerwaldt of Citizens For More Important Things and two other Seattle residents contend that a memorandum of understanding, signed by the city, King County and the hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen's investor group, "is illegal and has asked a county judge to nullify the agreement” (, 1/15). Johnson said, “I hope Seattle gets another team. They deserve another team. They didn’t deserve to lose their team in the first place. It just won’t be the Sacramento Kings if we have anything to do with it” (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/16).

An excerpt from former Red Sox manager Terry Francona's new book that will appear in this week's Sports Illustrated "draws an unflattering portrait" of Red Sox Owner Fenway Sports Group, characterizing FSG as "meddlesome, obsessed with TV ratings, distracted by its soccer ventures, and craving more stars and 'sex symbols,'" according to Gordon Edes of ESPN BOSTON. Francona in the book wrote, "I don't think they love baseball. I think they like baseball. It's revenue, and I know that's their right and their interest because they're owners -- and they're good owners. But they don't love the game. It's still more of a toy or a hobby for them." Edes wrote the "fixation with declining TV ratings led to the club commissioning a $100,000 market research survey, the results of which were discussed in November 2010, a little more than a month after the Sox had failed to make the playoffs, primarily because of a devastating run of injuries." Cubs President of Baseball Operations and former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein "offers one of the most damning indictments" in the excerpt. Epstein said, "They told us we didn't have any marketable players, that we needed some sizzle. We need some sexy guys. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. This is like an absurdist comedy. We'd become too big. It was the farthest thing removed from what we set out to be" (, 1/15). In Boston, Peter Abraham in a front-page piece writes the "result" of the team's research survey was 1B Adrian Gonzalez and CF Carl Crawford, "both of whom proved to be busts in Boston." Francona's book "tells of the discord that led to the 2011 collapse" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/16). Francona in the book wrote, "One thing the players were always asking for was getaway day games. The owners would never go for it. They couldn’t have more day games because the ratings were already suffering, and that would have hurt worse" (, 1/15).

THE RESPONSE: ESPN BOSTON's Edes adds the criticism of Red Sox ownership "comes at an inopportune time" for FSG Chair John Henry and his partners, as they are "dealing with a fan base already put off" by the hiring of former manager Bobby Valentine and last season's last-place finish, as well as "persistent rumors (despite emphatic denials) that Henry might sell the club, and the ongoing perception that the club is competing with the Liverpool soccer team for the owners' attention." A team spokesperson yesterday said that a formal response from the team "was not anticipated, and if one comes at all, it probably will come after the book's publication." But Red Sox Chair Tom Werner in an e-mail wrote Francona and the Sox "had unbelievable success together, and our focus is on 2013" (, 1/15). The BOSTON GLOBE's Abraham in a separate piece wrote Werner "took the high road when asked about the criticism" (, 1/15).

EXCEPTION TO THE EXCERPT: Francona said that the excerpts in SI "make the characterization sound worse than it really is." He added that "when people read the book they'll understand the portrayal of ownership is not as harsh as it may seem." Francona: "The last chapter is hard because it was a hard ending. I’m sure there will be a thing or two that will piss somebody off that I didn’t think would, but I’ve read it seven times and me and [co-author Dan Shaughnessy] made change after change because I wanted it to be good, I wanted it to be interesting and I also wanted it to preserve the clubhouse because I do believe in that so much" (, 1/15). Francona added, "There's context. What's in Sports Illustrated isn't the whole story." The Boston Globe, where Shaughnessy works as a columnist, will "run excerpts from the book for three consecutive days starting Jan. 27." Shaughnessy will "write about the making of the book and his relationship with Francona for the Globe Sunday magazine" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/16).

THROWING THE BOOK AT 'EM: In Providence, Tim Britton writes the criticism is "rather tame, all things considered, and it's nothing particularly new" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 1/16). In Boston, Michael Silverman writes under the header, "Tito Throws Book At Sox" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/16). Silverman adds that the excerpt comes while the team will "begin ticket sales on Jan. 26 at Fenway and online" (, 1/15).

NHL Jets fan outrage "appears to be at the heart of a True North Sports & Entertainment decision to permanently scrap a controversial plan to charge fans for breaking up their season ticket packages," according to Ken Wiebe of the WINNIPEG SUN. What had fans "up in arms and taking to social media to voice their displeasure" was a proposed C$2.50 per-ticket fee to reprint and redistribute tickets for Jets home games. As True North held a press conference to "launch Phase 1 of its digital ticketing platform and the release of the Jets season ticket card" yesterday, President & CEO Jim Ludlow "unveiled a host of upgrades" to MTS Centre before "finally tackling the issue." Ludlow said, "The intention is for the fee to be waived year over year. We hear our fans." Wiebe noted the plan, "was part of a move from paper tickets to season-ticket cards this season and the original handout said the fee would only be waived for the current 2013 season." That was the "biggest concern for fans, many of whom saw the potential fee as a cash grab." For fans who prefer to receive the traditional paper season tickets this season, Ludlow said that the Jets will "make them available" for a cost of C$60 (, 1/15). In Winnipeg, Paul Friesen noted the ticket card alone has "riled up traditionalists who like to keep ticket stubs as souvenirs" (WINNIPEG SUN, 1/15).

NHL Panthers tickets have been "selling at a pace comparable to the playoffs last year" since the NHL schedule was announced on Saturday, according to Craig Davis of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Early indications are that hockey fans "are eager to re-engage with their sport," and Panthers officials are "hopeful of a sellout" for Saturday's opener against the Hurricanes. Original season-ticket holders on Saturday will be "on the ice during the player introductions, and other initiatives intended to help the team reconnect with fans are planned for opening night and continuing through the 48-game season." Panthers Owner Cliff Viner said, "I'm sure there are people who are disgruntled. My view is that if we get off to a decent start … we'll grab all those people that were on the fence that we couldn't engage before." Davis notes the lockout "took a major bite out of the opening of Club Red." The Panthers invested $7.7M in the "plush premium lounge that offers gourmet dining and drinks as well as the best seats in the house overlooking center ice." Memberships go for about $16,500 annually for all arena events, though "hockey-only and concert-only plans are also offered." VP/Communications & Public Affairs Matt Sacco said that more than half of the 600 memberships "have been sold." But Viner expressed concerns about how "numerous empty prime seats will look on television broadcasts" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/16).

Blue Jackets President Mike Priest said that the team’s season-ticket sales "stand at a little over 7,000 as the club prepares to open the shortened NHL season" at the Predators on Saturday. In Columbus, Jeff Bell noted that compares with 8,000 "last season." The 7,000 mark is the "lowest in the history of the Blue Jackets, who made their NHL debut in 2000." The Blue Jackets are offering a "two-for-one ticket offer" for Monday’s home-opener against the Red Wings. But Priest said that future ticket discounts "will be limited to what the team has traditionally offered fans in value packs" (, 1/15).

KIND OF BLUE: Blues Owner Tom Stillman, who took control of the franchise in May, said, "There's been all this anticipation. Now we finally get to hold the baby." He added, "I just want our fans to know that we don't take them for granted. We're excited about this team and this season's potential. We feel a lot of things are in place. We have very good people here. But we need our fans. We've never forgotten their role." In St. Louis, Joe Strauss notes the Blues "lost about $20 million last season under league control," and this year breaking even would "be a good outcome." The Blues "suffered only negligible erosion of their season-ticket base, which stands around 11,000 full-season equivalents." The franchise's "narrow fiscal margin precludes it from cutting ticket prices as a giveback" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/16).

SNOW DAYS: In Denver, David Migoya notes the Avalanche are "pushing a variety of ticket promotions to draw back a fan base that once rivaled the league's best." The team said that 90% of last year's season-ticket pool "remained true." Kroenke Sports & Entertainment CMO Kurt Schwartzkopf said that the team will have "an apology letter handed to each fan who attends next Tuesday's home opener," which will be signed by team Owner Stan Kroenke, GM Greg Sherman, coach Joe Sacco and LW Gabriel Landeskog. In addition, tickets to the game are "being offered at a 2-for-1 price -- and season ticket holders can also grab four free additional tickets" (DENVER POST, 1/16).

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: In Minneapolis, Rachel Blount notes the Wild will "stick with its longtime slogan -- Let's Play Hockey -- as the theme for this shortened season." The team will offer "merchandise specials throughout the month, give away T-shirts on Opening Night and award autographed jerseys to selected fans." Season-ticket holders will be offered a 20% discount on "additional single-game tickets through Feb. 28." Wild COO Matt Majka said the team is on course to get back to its peak of 16,500 "very quickly." He added that "no corporate sponsors left, and most season-ticket holders did not ask for refunds for cancelled games; instead, they left their money in the accounts to go toward future tickets" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/16).

KINGS' RANSOM? In L.A., Lisa Dillman notes ticket prices for Saturday's Blackhawks-Kings game at Staples Center were "starting in the neighborhood of $155," but the game is "sold out, which means the secondary market is surging." AEG COO Kelly Cheeseman said, "Pricing is something we never take lightly, but in most cases I'll tell fans there's lots of options out there when it comes to purchasing Kings tickets." The Kings' season-ticket base is 15,000, and team President of Business Operations Luc Robitaille said that they "lost four accounts during the lockout." Dillman writes one "eye-popping price angering fans for the opener was $600." Cheeseman said, "We only had two that were available at the $600 price at the glass" (L.A. TIMES, 1/16).

ESPN BOSTON's Joe McDonald reported last night's Bruins scrimmage against the AHL Providence Bruins "was a near sellout," and fans gave the team "a standing ovation." Chants of "Let's go, Bruins" were "plentiful throughout the night" (, 1/15). In Boston, Matt Kalman notes season ticket-holders and Premium Club clients were "given top priority for tickets to the event," and all 17,565 tickets were distributed. The Bruins allowed two season ticket-holders to "work the penalty box doors," while two others "served as goal judges." Bruins D Zdeno Chara said of the fans' positive response, "It just shows that they never really were against, I would say, the players" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/16).

FROM PARLIAMENT HILL: The Senators yesterday announced that more than 16,000 tickets had been sold for Monday's home opener against the Panthers. More than 9,000 tickets were sold for the first 10 games of the regular season on Monday, the first day tickets were available to the public. That is nearly the same number of tickets that were sold during last year's first day of ticket sales, which included access to all 41 home games (Senators).

ALONE ON AN ISLAND: In N.Y., Jeff Klein noted Islanders D Lubomir Visnovsky is the "only player under an NHL contract who is refusing to return from a European league after the lockout." The KHL yesterday said that Visnovsky "would not be allowed to play for Slovan Bratislava in his native Slovakia unless the Islanders and the NHL released him from his contract." The KHL's ruling means Visnovsky will not play in "any subsequent KHL game unless an agreement is reached with the Islanders and the NHL." Visnovsky told Slovakian newspaper Pravda that he "might return to the Islanders later this season" (, 1/15).