Time is of the essence if Mario Lemieux wants to move the Penguins out of Pittsburgh. (Andrew Rush/Associated Press)
Viewpoint: Scott Morrison
Penguins' plight: relocation, relocation, relocation
Last Updated Thursday, March 7, 2007
by Scott Morrison
Depending on the day, heck, even the hour, Mario Lemieux and friends intend to meet with groups in Las Vegas, or Kansas City, or Houston - or all of the above - to discuss relocating the Penguins.
This, of course, after reaching an impasse in negotiations with the civic fathers in Pittsburgh, although the travel agent may be booking Mario et al a short hop to Philadelphia on Thursday for another meeting with the city and state officials, not to mention NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who has been trying to mediate proceedings.
Whatever the destination, somewhere or nowhere, time is obviously becoming short as it pertains to the league finalizing schedules for next year, or having to contemplate and thoroughly digest an application to relocate, then determining whether realignment is necessary - the to-do list is endless in other words, if it gets to that point.
What is interesting about this whole process, though, is the fact that Lemieux and co-owner Ron Burkle are conducting the negotiations. As the co-owners it obviously makes sense, but you might recall they had previously and tentatively sold the franchise to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie. When that deal fell through at the last minute in December they took down the "for sale" sign and opted to wait for the casino bid announcement and proceed from there.
When the "wrong" bid won, they then started exploring potential options, such as Kansas City, and hunkered down to grind through negotiations with the city of Pittsburgh and the state. But the intention was: arena deal first, sale second.
All the while, we have been led to believe nothing has changed and that goal was still to sell the franchise, which is worth at least the $175 million Balsillie was willing to pay and some suspect upwards of $200 million. Not bad when you consider, just prior to the lockout, a deal was in place to sell for $118 million. Patience and Sidney Crosby are indeed virtues.
Anyway, if the plan is to sell, and given they reached an impasse in talks (though that could simply be one final stare down negotiating tactic), did they perhaps get the cart and the horse out of order in this whole situation?
If the plan is to sell, before relocating should a new owner not have, or have had, the opportunity to hammer out an arena partnership in Pittsburgh, or at the very least, determine whether what is on the table is palatable?
Or is the plan not to sell after all? Why else would he be talking relocation - meaning is there not any keen interest out there in owning the Penguins if they have to stay in Pittsburgh? Then again, if they are that close to an arena deal, Lemieux has to have some confidence there are buyers out there, unless the success of the team and the ever-growing presence of Crosby made them think twice about selling, that perhaps holding on a while longer will increase the price and attractiveness even more?
Or, maybe it really is status quo and the impasse is one last attempt to squeeze a better deal.
Whatever, if the sincere goal of everyone involved is to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh, relocating with an ownership group that intends to sell just doesn't seem a like a viable option.
- Final week grab-bag: Carolina's woes, traditional foes
- The debate over fighting in the NHL rages on
- Resignation not part of Saskin's vocabulary
- Penguins' plight: relocation, relocation, relocation
- What did we learn from trade deadline day?
- Thrashers pay hefty price for Tkachuk
- Winds of change spring from GM meetings
- Nashville wins the Forsberg sweepstakes
- Pat Burns keeps fighting the good fight
- Conroy's return bolsters Flames' Cup hopes
- The NHL schedule: better wait 'til next year
- Montreal's losses, Carbonneau's pain
- Comrie a better choice for Ottawa
- The Penguins may yet be on the march
- What happened to respect in sports journalism?
- Blue Jackets bombed as they waited for a new coach
- Penguins win huge off the ice
- The Hall of Fame: beyond riding the rainbow
- Let's leave the NHL schedule alone
- More questions than answers as Colie says no to Philly
- For GMs, patience is a virtue
- NHL attendance could be a problem. Again.
- Things could be finer in Carolina
- Don't hold your breath, Leaf fans
- Scott Morrison, the recipient of the Hockey Hall of Fame's 2006 Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award, has been covering hockey for 25 years. The Toronto native began his career at the Toronto Sun in 1979. After spending more than 11 years as a hockey writer and columnist at the paper, Morrison became Sports Editor in 1991 and led the section to being named one of North America's top-ten sports sections in 1999 - the first sports section in Canada to receive the AP Sports Editors North American Award. Scott, a former two-term president of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, joined Rogers Sportsnet in 2001 as Managing Editor, Hockey, and is currently both a commentator on Hockey Night in Canada and a columnist for CBC.ca.