Katz promises Oilers deal will be good for team and Edmonton
The new owner of the Edmonton Oilers, Daryl Katz, pronounced himself a lifelong fan Wednesday, and promised to do "great things for the team and the community."
In Katz's first news conference since his $200-million bid was accepted by the Edmonton Investors Group on Tuesday, the billionaire owner of the Rexall drugstore chain said he understands the importance people in the city place on the team.
"This has been a very emotional decision for everyone involved," he said. "We all cared deeply about the team and the community, and they all want what is best.
"I'm honoured they have entrusted the stewardship of the Oilers to me."
Katz was not in Edmonton for the news conference, which was conducted by teleconference.
Katz also repeated his commitment to contribute $100 million to the building of a new downtown arena for the hockey club, although he wouldn't discuss details until after the NHL gives its blessing to the sale.
"This building and its related elements have a great opportunity to revitalize downtown," he said. "I also think the other opportunity [is] for the Oilers to be within the centrepiece of the city."
Katz said one of his key goals is to make the Oilers a competitive team, and he said he will have an ongoing role in managing the team.
Fans welcome Katz ownership
Fans welcomed Katz on Tuesday as the new owner.
"That's perfect," Terry Turner told CBC News as he watched an Edmonton Oil Kings hockey game at Rexall Place, home of the Oilers. "I think he's going to bring a lot to the team. I think he's going to expand our buying power for players. [I'm] excited to see what comes about."
"I was a little worried to begin with," admitted Christine West, another fan who was watching the Oil Kings, who play in the Western Hockey League. "But after hearing reports, he's willing to keep the team here and he's willing to put an arena downtown, that kind of put me a little bit at ease."
West, who said she remembers the days when Peter Pocklington owned the team and threatened to pull out of Edmonton, was confident of Katz's commitment to the city.
The EIG purchased the team a decade ago from Pocklington to prevent the Oilers from relocating to Houston. It already has a 10-year, $20-million deal with Katz for the naming rights to Rexall Place.
There was also support for the deal Tuesday from Oilers coach Craig MacTavish, who knows Katz personally.
"He's got the community's best interest at heart. And he's doing this for all the right reasons. And I think it's gonna be good," MacTavish said.
But to most Edmontonians, Katz is a bit of a mystery — a seldom-seen owner of the Rexall pharmacy chain who lives in a $20-million mansion in the city's River Valley.