Hockey's Hunters buy London Knights

In a dramatic last-minute turn of events, it appears former NHLers Dale and Mark Hunter will end up as owners of the OHL's London Knights.

Lauridon Sports Management missed the 5 p.m. deadline on Wednesday to exercise its option to match the Hunters' bid.

The Hunters can close the $3.8-million deal for the team and the aging London Ice House on Monday.

"It's amazing, isn't it?" an emotional Mark Hunter told the London Free Press.

"I don't know what to say. It's been a roller coaster. One time we had it, then we didn't have it. It's been gut-wrenching. We weren't feeling good about ourselves to go much farther with anything else."

Dale Hunter said the sudden turnaround "still hasn't sunk in - it's like being down a couple of goals late in the game, then scoring a couple of quick ones. They always say it's never over until it's over."

The Tarry family, the current owners, accepted a $250,000 deposit from the Hunters in April.

Then Lauridon, a player in one bid for a new downtown arena/entertainment complex, announced it would exercise its right of first refusal to buy the Knights.

When Lauridon failed to make a $100,000 deposit by 5 p.m. Tuesday and asked for an extension, Knights president Doug Tarry called it off.

"It's time to close (the deal) with the Hunters," Tarry said. "There will be no extension."

"We have a deal in place with the Hunters that we are going to close with them on Monday."

Lauridon's deal apparently fell apart when its partner in its bid for a new downtown arena, Stadium Consultants International, would not sign off on the deal. The option to match the Hunters' offer had to be a joint submission of Lauridon and SCI.

The Free Press reported Lauridon contacted the Hunters to offer them a majority ownership of the Knights and the Ice House.

"I'm not getting into specifics because nothing was done," Mark Hunter said, confirming there was an 11th-hour phone call from Lauridon.

He confirmed former NHLers Rob Ramage and Basil McRae will also be involved in the Knights as limited investors.

Mark Hunter said there are no immediate plans for changes in hockey management. He said Knights coach/general manager Gary Agnew, with two years remaining on his current contract, will stay put.

Mark Hunter, who resigned as coach and general manager of the Sarnia Sting in December, spent his 12-year NHL career with Montreal, St. Louis, Calgary, Hartford and Washington.

Dale Hunter played for Quebec, Washington and Colorado over 10 seasons.

Boston Bruins centre Jason Allison was involved in the Lauridon bid.

"I guess time was the big issue," said Allison. "It's too bad. I was excited. But stuff happens.

"I'm sure the Hunters will do a good job. My bad is the Hunters' good, so I can at least look at it that someone had a good day."