Gillett has never entertained selling Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens are not for sale and never have been, team owner George Gillett reiterated prior to Thursday's NHL game against the visiting New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET).

As the Montreal Canadiens prepared for Thursday night's visit by the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers, team owner George Gillett decided to set the record straight: the NHL club isn't for sale and never has been.

A report last month in Montreal's La Presse newspaper quoted Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie saying the Canadiens were for sale.

But the co-CEO of Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion Ltd., and Gillett quickly denied the story.

In recent years, Balsillie has made attempts to buy the NHL's Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins amid speculation he would move the team to the southern Ontario region.

On Thursday, the 70-year-old Gillett told reporters he is "angry" that he continually has to deny the hockey team is on the market.

"The club has never been for sale. As far as I know, no one has ever talked to anyone about the sale of the club," said Gillett, who bought 80 per cent of the Canadiens and the Bell Centre for $185 million US in 2001.

"I've never authorized anyone to discuss it. We have received many inquiries about a possible sale [but] I've never entertained any of them."

What might be creating some confusion with regards to a potential sale is the fact Gillett is considering, with other interested parties, selling a strip of Gillett Entertainment Group, a Canadian-based sports and entertainment promoter.

According to Forbes magazine, the Canadiens are the third most valuable team in the NHL, worth an estimated $334 million US.

Gillett, an American businessman, made his fortune with sports properties, ski resorts and meat production. He is also co-owner of English Premier League team Liverpool FC, and the NASCAR auto racing team Gillett Evernham Motorsports.