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SteelCityMan786
06-21-2007, 03:39 PM
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/penguins/s_513681.html

Bettman: Talk of Predators to Canada is premature

By The Associated Press
Thursday, June 21, 2007

NEW YORK - Without a binding agreement between Nashville Predators owner Craig Leipold and Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, talk of the team relocating to Canada is strictly premature.

That was NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's stern message Wednesday after a meeting of the league's board of governors.

Leipold and Balsillie, the co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, agreed to a term sheet for the transfer of ownership of the club, but that is nonbinding. The delay in closing the deal prevented the sale from being up for vote by the league's 30 teams before this weekend's draft in Columbus, Ohio.

Balsillie has already started a process to move the Predators to Hamilton, Ontario, should a potential out in the team's lease with the arena in Nashville be exercised after the sale's completion. Leipold announced May 24 he was selling to the team to Balsillie.

"Currently there isn't a fully completed application before the board of governors," Bettman said. "As a result I think people are getting a little bit ahead of themselves on this entire issue.

"It isn't in any shape or form close to being ready for consideration as it relates to approval of an ownership change. I'm not exactly sure why people are focused on the Nashville Predators being anywhere other than in Nashville at this particular point in time."

The board isn't scheduled to meet again until the fall, so any deal likely won't be approved before next season. The agreement between Leipold and Balsillie carried a June 30 deadline for completion, but that could be extended.

Just three weeks ago, Bettman said he specifically asked Balsillie if had had plans or intentions to move the team, and was told he didn't. But Balsillie already has gained the exclusive right to bring an NHL team to the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, and Ticketmaster began taking deposits last week for "Hamilton Predators" season tickets.

"When I made that statement, that's what he had told me," Bettman said. "I know people are focused on the fact of, 'Why did I say that?' At the time I said it because that's what I was told."

Asked if Balsillie changed his position to him, Bettman said, "The facts speak for themselves. I wasn't completely shocked."

Balsillie's offer to Leipold falls somewhere in the $220 million-238 million range, well above Forbes Magazine's estimated value of $134 million and significantly higher than his bid of $175 million for the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this year....