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Oilers owner unaware fans would be angry over Seattle situation


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The owner of the Edmonton Oilers says he never realized that threatening to move his NHL team to Seattle would trigger a firestorm of fan anger against him in the Alberta capital.

"There was probably a little too much [bare-knuckled Mark] Messier and not enough [graceful Wayne] Gretzky in the way that we conveyed things," Katz said Monday in a radio interview.

"What we didn't consider was how our supporters or our fans would feel and that was wrong and I apologize for it."

Katz, speaking in an interview with a team employee, was following up a full-page ad he took out in local newspapers Saturday apologizing for the Seattle gambit.

The Seattle gambit had brought a deluge of angry, personal, and even vulgar comments against Katz on social media and in letters to the editor.

In the weekend ad, Katz promised in future to be more open on what the Oilers want in the proposed new $475-million cost-shared downtown arena.

"In hindsight, I have underestimated the degree to which it would be up to us to make the case for public funding," he said in the ad.

"Public communications is not in my nature. Chalk that up as a personal shortcoming."

City councillors and Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel called the apology a good first step, but said Katz still must make his case in public why the team feels the deal it made with the city a year ago needs to be changed to deliver millions of dollars more in public subsidies per year to the Oilers.

'What we didn't consider was how our supporters or our fans would feel and that was wrong and I apologize for it.'
—Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz

Two days later, that hasn't happened.

Behind closed doors

Katz told the radio show more information has been delivered, but behind closed doors.

"We shared some information with the city and our discussions have been more productive as a result," he said.

Mandel has set a deadline of Oct. 17 for a deal to be worked out on a rink that on paper will cost $475 million, but, when land costs, loan payments and surrounding amenities are paid for, will come in over $700 million.

Under the deal, taxpayers and ticket buyers would fund the rink and the Oilers would pay $5.5 million a year in lease payments for three decades.

In return, the Oilers would run the arena, pay for its upkeep (estimated at $10 million a year), and keep all revenues from Oiler games, trade shows, concerts, and other events for 11 months out of the year. Concession sales alone are estimated at $20 million a year.

The team would also get naming rights for the rink (valued between $1 million and $3 million a year) and $20 million from the city over 10 years for unspecified advertising.

Construction was to start early in 2013 and be completed by the fall of 2015.

However the project went into limbo last month when councillors were told in a closed-door session that Katz had a second look at the numbers and now needed millions of dollars more, including a $6-million annual subsidy for arena operating costs for the team to stay viable in a "small market."

Councillors rejected the ask and, as word of the multimillion-dollar demands leaked out to the public, both sides accused the other of bad-faith bargaining.

Angry fans called City Hall to complain about millions of tax dollars potentially being given away to a billionaire in secret.

Katz said he was angry word had leaked out, which is why he went to Seattle last Monday to meet with officials looking to woo an NHL and an NBA team to the Pacific Northwest.

Leaked information

"I was angry at information that was leaked from our negotiations, and things were said about me and I feel I reacted emotionally, which I shouldn't have done," he said.

Despite the apology, the letter doesn't make clear if the team will continue to look at relocating to hedge its bets on Edmonton. Prior to Seattle, Oiler officials travelled to Hamilton and Quebec City and there have even been talks to build a rink on First Nations land west of Edmonton.

The letter also doesn't spell out how or when the Oilers plan to communicate better and whether Katz will apologize to Seattle for using it as a negotiating pawn.

Katz wasn't asked those questions Monday.

The arena is now in its fourth year of back and forth talks.

Katz has said he's losing money on the Oilers in Edmonton and wants a public subsidy deal similar to the one given to NHL teams in Winnipeg and Pittsburgh.

Forbes ranks the Oilers in the middle of NHL teams with a worth of $212 million.

The proposed new arena would seat 18,400 with restaurants, shops and party space.

Drawings depict a wavy, futuristic building of zinc and glass in the rough shape of an oil drop.

The Oilers have played in Rexall Place since it was built in 1974. It is one of the oldest rinks in the league.

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"In hindsight, I have underestimated the degree to which it would be up to us to make the case for public funding," he said in the ad.

Why is it that billionaires feel entitled to taxpayer money to finance their personal playthings while they b***h and moan when taxpayer money is used to feed and educate our people?

If this a-hole didn't know that it would upset the people who sold out every game last year to watch the dreadful "product" he's put on the ice that hasn't even sniffed the playoffs since 05-06 that he would threaten to take perhaps the only reason people know that Edmonton exists and move it to [insert city name here], what kind of "businessman" is he!?!?

Moreover, they're supposed to feel bad for him because it's a "personal shortcoming"?

May I suggest that you stop abusing whatever "product" it is that you've been sneaking from your drugs stores?

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Why is it that billionaires feel entitled to taxpayer money to finance their personal playthings while they b***h and moan when taxpayer money is used to feed and educate our people?

Nice.

Katz is a spray-on-tanned noveau riche who got lucky and was able to exploit gaps in reimbursement policies to make millions off taxpayers. He knows nothing of the world.

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@Podein25 I can see making fun of this rich ****** for the next couple decades or so is gonna be some serious fun. Don't even know that much about him, but just gathering the little snipets I do know about, this guy is one of those "love to hate" characters. At worst he can be a money grabbing headliners and sink back into the woodwork...but at best, we just may have another George Stienbrenner on our hands, a rich guy who will react first and think about it second....has some nice storyline possibilities...and hate-able enough it makes it fun...lol.

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I think I might like Katz just because I know the prim and proper Bettman will not approve of him. Anything that upsets Gary can't be all that bad...as long as the Oilers stay in Edmonton, I hope he continues to supply the entertainment. I think the press smells blood also...we shall see.

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I think I might like Katz just because I know the prim and proper Bettman will not approve of him. Anything that upsets Gary can't be all that bad...as long as the Oilers stay in Edmonton, I hope he continues to supply the entertainment. I think the press smells blood also...we shall see.

The League obviously approved of him when he bought the team.

I also don't hear anything about him not liking the way the CBA is going (or was going to go) or that he has any problem with tearing beloved franchises from hockey hotbeds and sticking teams into new, unproven markets.

Sounds like "Bettman's Dream" to me.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Latest update on Mr.Katzinthecradle....tommorow is the deadline for a deal to be struck with the Edmonton City Council and Katz's Oilers. Katz has stated they are so far apart, that he does not intend to show up to make a pitch for his bid for more taxpayer money. The mayor has imposed this deadline, so things may go ugly from here.....or at least a lot of posturing.

http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=407513

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Habsguy just posted this in the shout box....thought it was worth re-posting here. As expected, the arena deal was shot down by every councillor....don't know where we got from here....take a look at the fan reaction underneath, some Oiler fans who are furious (and deservedly so)

http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=407598

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