Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz’ game of footsie with Hamilton, Ontario has continued over the past week, though it remains hard to say where it’s all headed. Recent developments, in rough order of importance:
- The Hamilton Spectator reports that Katz is working on a memorandum of understanding with the city to get exclusive rights to bring an NHL team there for four years, at which point, if no team had materialized, he would pay the city of Hamilton $1 million. (Which, even in newly appreciated Canadian dollars, would be pretty much chump change.)
- Oilers president Patrick LaForge, however, notes that NHL bylaws prohibit owning an interest in more than one team. And while that would seem to imply a threat to move (or sell) the Oilers, he says that’s not in the works either, and that Katz only wants to manage the arena in Hamilton, not put an NHL team there.
- NHL commissioner Bill Daly insists that Katz won’t be working to help Hamilton get a new NHL franchise, either. Hamilton city council member Bob Bratina, meanwhile, who was in on the talks with Katz, says his proposal wasn’t actually anything formal, adding: “Frankly, the whole thing is very obscure, lacks detail and in some cases doesn‚Äôt make sense.”
- At least one Edmonton city councillor notes that the timing of all these rumors — sorry, rumours — is pretty convenient, given that Katz is in the middle of a currently stalled new-arena negotiation process in Edmonton.
- LaForge admits that the timing of the Hamilton talks was, and this is a direct quote, “shitty.” Edmonton city councillors are now, and this is in my own words, pissy, with councillor Ben Henderson warning, “There are all kinds of people who were fully on board with the arena two or three months ago, who are now asking all kinds of questions.”
- The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, meanwhile, are moving ahead with plans for a new stadium, for which they say they’ll pay “in excess of $74,000,000.00.” The breakdown, however, is only $15 million in cash, plus $3 million a year in operating costs for ten years (which is present dollars is closer to $20 million than $30 million), $10 million in “transition costs,” and $14 million “to bring two Grey Cup Games to Hamilton as soon as possible.” So the vast majority of the cost of a new football stadium would still need to be raised elsewhere. A decision needs to be made by tomorrow if the new stadium will have a shot at hosting part of the 2015 Pan Am Games.
So where does all that leave us? About where we were last week: Either Katz is trying to increase pressure on Edmonton to approve his arena plans, or he wants to grab control of the Tiger-Cats’ new stadium (or the TiCats themselves), or he just really, really likes running arenas. And as for the “shitty” timing, it’s equally hard to say whether that’s a genuinely ham-fisted move or just a cover story for the fact that he meant to do all this to up the ante on either an Edmonton arena, a Hamilton stadium, or both. It’s so hard to tell the difference between incompetence and malfeasance…