A few years ago, when Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux needed a promise from the city for a new arena deal, he floated the idea of moving the team to Kansas City or Las Vegas. Many felt it was an attempt to put pressure on the city, and they were correct. Lemieux admitted it was about gaining leverage, not intended to hurt anyone, but to get the deal moving the right direction.
“We had to do a few things to put pressure on the city and the state, but our goal was to remain here in Pittsburgh all the way,” Lemieux told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. “[Pressure] was felt, and that was the important thing.” (ESPN)
His method clearly hasn’t been forgotten. News broke early in the week that Edmonton Oilers owner Darryl Katz brought a number of Oilers brass to Seattle to tour the city’s arena. Katz has been lobbying the city of Edmonton for a new arena to be built to house the team, but negotiations haven’t been going well. Katz isn’t pleased with the directions of the talks, though many believe he is just lobbying to get more money from the city council.
There are a number of struggling franchises in the NHL that may benefit from a re-location, but despite being a small market team, Edmonton is not one of them. The Oilers are one of the most storied organizations in the league. They have a passionate fan-base and sell out tickets without a problem. They also boast some of the best young talent in the NHL. If one was to rank the teams that deserve to be moved first, the Oilers shouldn’t even make the list.
Katz isn’t the first owner to pull this tactic, and he may not be the last, but the Seattle visit obviously has the Oiler faithful in Edmonton a little worried. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman doesn’t believe a relocation for the Oilers is on the horizon, however.
“We continue to believe that an arena deal is achievable and with a new arena, there should be no reason to have any doubts about the future of the Oilers in Edmonton.” (TSN)
Katz wants to get the deal done in Edmonton, but it’s clear that he wants done on his terms, and those terms don’t appear to line-up with the city. But with two years remaining on the lease of the current Oilers arena, there is still time to hammer out a deal. In the midst of the unrest regarding the CBA, and the reality of a cancelled season upon us, hockey fans are getting weary of the word “negotiations”.