The publicity-shy new owner of the Edmonton Oilers, Daryl Katz, appeared in public Wednesday for the first time since he formally acquired the team.
"So we finally meet face to face. I'm sure some of you thought that would never happen," Katz said to reporters at an Oilers news conference at Edmonton's Rexall Place.
Katz, whose personal worth is estimated to be $1.6 billion US, is the Edmonton-born founder of the Rexall chain of pharmacies.
The NHL board of governors approved the $200-million purchase from the Edmonton Investors' Group [EIG], a consortium of 34 local investors, on June 18. The sale formally closed yesterday.
Katz expressed excitement at acquiring the team he followed as a fan growing up in Edmonton.
"I grew up with the boys on the bus and like everyone else, I know I lived and died by the Oilers through all of the glory years and the not so glorious years," he said. "So standing here today at centre ice underneath all of the Stanley Cup banners, all I can say is this is nothing short of a dream come true."
Cal Nichols, a former EIG chairman, will chair the Oilers board of directors, and will act as an alternate for Katz on the NHL board of governors.
Katz praised team president Patrick LaForge, general manager Kevin Lowe, and head coach Craig MacTavish.
"They are the team who will lead the Oilers into the future," he said.
Katz made repeated offers to buy the Oilers in his months-long pursuit of the team, only to have each bid rejected. The tide turned in December, when he made a $200-million offer that the EIG shareholders finally accepted in February.
Katz 'perfectly suited for this new NHL': GM
There are high hopes that the team's fortunes will change under Katz's ownership. The Oilers have not made the playoffs since 2006, when the team made it to the Stanley Cup finals before being defeated 3-1 by the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7.
"To all of our fans from near and far, you have my personal commitment that I will do whatever I can to make the Edmonton Oilers a winning franchise at the heart of the community," Katz said.
Lowe said the change has re-energized the players and management.
"There's a new NHL and Daryl is perfectly suited for this new NHL. Of course, we've got some great players now," Lowe said. "Now we have the wherewithal to keep those players here."
Katz also reaffirmed his desire for talks to continue on a replacement for Rexall Place.
"From my perspective, the sooner we can move into a new building, the better," he said.