New Sabres owner can't move club
Sabres owner B. Thomas Golisano said on Thursday one of the conditions of a sale to the team to Pennsylvania businessman Terry Pegula is that the club cannot be relocated from Buffalo.
The $189-million US sale is expected to close within 30 days, pending NHL and governmental approval. It is not expected to encounter any hurdles.
Golisano on Thursday trumpeted the fact that he refused an offer worth $70 million more, because the prospective owner wanted to move the team.
While it may have made for a good public boast, given how the NHL has fought hard to keep newer franchises like Phoenix and Nashville in their current locations, it is extremely unlikely the league would have accepted any proposition other than keeping one of its signature U.S. franchises where it has been since 1970.
Buffalo entered the league along with Vancouver over 40 years ago, and the Sabres are the eighth-longest running American franchise in terms of remaining in their current location.
Golisano brought the team out of bankruptcy in 2003, helping it rebound after the relatively short-lived tenure of disgraced owner John Rigas. The Adelphia Communications CEO was sentenced to prison on securities fraud charges.
"As far as my personal involvement with the Sabres, it's been quite an interesting run," he said. "It's been 99 per cent very, very positive."
Golisano credited NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for helping the small market Sabres survive by introducing a salary cap and revenue sharing.
He said he was most proud of how the team's season ticket base more than doubled during his tenure, and heralded marketing efforts to price games according to demand.
Pegula contacted Golisano about a year ago, the outgoing owner said on Thursday.
Pegula is the founder and former president of the energy company East Resources Inc., a major player in Pennsylvania's burgeoning natural gas industry that was sold to Royal Dutch Shell PLC for $4.7 billion last year.
Pegula, whose wife is from Western New York, was not present at Thursday's press conference. It is possible that he won't comment extensively until the NHL signs off on the deal.
With Pegula poised to take over, coach Lindy Ruff acknowledged Tuesday he didn't accept the Sabres' offer in the fall to extend his contract, which expires after this season, but he wants to stay.
General manager Darcy Regier, it was revealed earlier this week, signed a two-year contract extension at the beginning of the 2010-11 season.
Golisano is moving on to a new government-related venture he'll announce in Washington this month. The billionaire businessman has run unsuccessfully three times for governor in New York.
Minority owner Larry Quinn will step down as managing partner.
With files from The Associated Press