Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz may want his entertainment company to operate Hamilton's Copps Coliseum and its proposed new stadium for the Pan-Am Games but at this point there is no sign he can produce an NHL franchise for the city.
Bob Bratina, a Hamilton city council member who was part of the discussions last week with Oilers president Pat LaForge, said it was only "suggested" by LaForge that Katz would be willing to pay the city $1-million if he could not bring it an NHL team in four years as long as Katz Entertainment Holdings Corporation was given the rights to operate Copps and the new stadium. Katz also wants to work with AEG, a large entertainment and sports facility company owned by Los Angeles Kings owner Philip Anschutz, to develop an entertainment district around the new stadium, which some city officials would like to build near the waterfront on the west side of the city.
Bratina said LaForge also made it clear the Oilers would not be that franchise, that they were staying in Edmonton.
As for the unusual prospect of one NHL owner offering to bring a franchise to another city, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly dismissed the idea. "That would certainly be inconsistent with what we were told about the agreement in advance," Daly said Friday in an e-mail message.
LaForge could not be reached for comment on Friday.
"This was all just sort of chatted about in a meeting we had," Bratina said. "We haven't had anything formal put in front of us.
"Frankly, the whole thing is very obscure, lacks detail and in some cases doesn't make sense."
Bratina said council told city staff to work with Katz's people on a formal proposal. They are expected to have it ready for council to vote on by Aug. 30.
Hamilton council has also been at loggerheads with Hamilton Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young about the new stadium. He is opposed to the waterfront location because of poor access and it would take development away from downtown.
Bratina, who has lived in Hamilton long enough to have seen a host of business people promise the city an NHL team, has his doubts about Katz's intentions.
"My guess is [Katz and his executives]are trying to position themselves for the Southern Ontario arena and [second NHL]team whether it's Hamilton or not," he said. "From what's gone on before, you've got to be pretty stupid not to think there should be another team around here.
"But I don't know how you get around the Toronto Maple Leafs kiboshing the thing at every turn."
Bratina also wonders if Katz made the $1-million offer simply as a way to get control of a lucrative project around the new stadium that might include a new NHL-style arena as well.
"That's probably a bargain price for something like that in the scheme of things," he said. "It's a 200-, 300-, 400-million-dollar issue and you put 2.4 per cent down to get your stake.
"I'm very skeptical that there is anything in this in the long run for the taxpayer of Hamilton."