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NHL Would Reject a Community-Owned Team

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The Hartford Whalers played their final game in Hartford, Conn., on April 13, 1997, after an 18-year run in that city. Photo: STEVE MILLER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Hartford, Connecticut city councilman John Gale wants to see the National Hockey League, and more specifically the Hartford Whalers brand, return to the city two decades after Peter Karmanos took his Whalers to first Greensboro then Raleigh, North Carolina. Karmanos has put the team up for sale and Gale thinks that 38 municipalities surrounding Hartford should put up funding and buy the team for $230 million and bring the team back to the Hartford Civic Center.

Gale’s proposal calls for the team to be community owned in a model similar to that of the Green Bay Packers National Football League structure which is run by a Board of Directors which issues basically worthless stock. In the early days of the National Football League in the 1920s, the group was essentially a semi-professional organization. In 1923, the financially struggling Green Bay franchise became a non-profit corporation. The group sold 1000 shares of stock for five dollars a share to raise $5,000 to keep the team operating. The NFL allows only Green Bay to operate in that manner.

The National Hockey League in the late 1990s faced a major problem with Edmonton Oilers ownership as Peter Pocklington could no longer afford to own the team. Initially Pocklington wanted to sell the franchise to the NBA’s Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander but the NHL wanted to keep the team in Edmonton.

One of the options was Edmonton would adopt the Green Bay franchise model but the league rejected that. Eventually the NHL would approve a coalition of 37 Edmonton-area investors to buy into the franchise and the team stayed. The NHL would reject government ownership of a team. The NHL took a half billion dollars for the Las Vegas expansion team, so the Gale’s offer of $230 million to buy a team will not cut it. Gale’s Hartford notion is just not feasible.

By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.

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