There are few people who actually believe the Edmonton Oilers will pack up and move to Seattle but that didn't stop Daryl Katz from playing his gambit.
You see, it's no secret that Katz, the chairman and CEO of The Katz Group, which owns the Oilers among many other things, is in a battle with the city of Edmonton over the construction of a new arena and his recent trip to Seattle was nothing more than a ploy to gain leverage in that fight.
Although Katz and the city of Edmonton agreed to a plan last fall that would cover the costs of building a new $450 million (CAD) downtown arena, that agreement has seen its share of setbacks.
Last October's plan called for the city to put $125 million toward the building while Katz was supposed to chip in $100 million. An additional $125 million would be raised through a ticket tax. However, the deal failed to account for the remaining $100 million and attempts to get the provincial and federal governments to foot the extra costs have been denied to date.
With his request for extra money from Edmonton a few weeks back, Katz is claiming the arena could now cost as much as $475 million to construct.
So, when the city said no to the additional funding, Katz and his ownership group headed to Seattle earlier this week for a tour of Key Arena, the former home of the NBA's SuperSonics before they moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. The city of Seattle also has agreed to build a new arena, but that construction of that stadium hinges on luring a new NBA franchise to town, not an NHL one.
There is also the fact that Katz would never be able to get the deal that Edmonton's new arena offers him in another city. The Oilers' new home would generate revenue for Katz even during non-hockey events, something that his deal with the team's current home of Rexall Place does not offer.
In the end, Katz's Seattle ruse amounts to little more than a mild form of blackmail and it comes from a man whose personal wealth reportedly is in excess of $2 billion. He would stand to become even richer if the new arena is built.
Katz claims that he is losing money on the Oilers, but other reports suggest the Edmonton franchise was actually one of the few NHL teams to turn a profit last year. With an even better deal awaiting him in Edmonton's potential new home, it would seem Katz knows his best option still resides in Alberta.
Although the struggle between Katz and Edmonton is not directly related to the NHL's current lockout, it doesn't help the league's owners in the public relations' war, a battle that the players have dominated.
Katz's stance on the arena deal reflects the owners' position in the NHL's labor negotiations. Like his fellow owners when it comes to the sharing of record revenues generated by the NHL, it seems like Katz is only interested in making an already lucrative deal even more profitable for himself. That is the perception anyway and dangling the threat of relocation in the face of Oilers' fans isn't going to help the owners' reputation.
But since more money is what they're after and not winning popularity contests, there is still time for the owners to get what they want. Getting it may cost the NHL part of its season, but as Katz showed with his window- shopping trip to Seattle, some owners are willing to go to extreme lengths for leverage.
OWNERS, NHLPA SET TO RESUME TALKS
It's been two weeks since formal talks in the CBA negotiations last took place on Sept. 12, but the two sides are expected to meet Friday in New York.
Unfortunately, the meeting will not address core economic issues like Hockey- Related Revenue, so the chances of any serious ground being made this week seem slim. Still, because the sides haven't formally met in such a long time, this seems like a case of any news is good news.
Since the last formal meeting there has been little to be positive about regarding the CBA negotiations. The lockout officially began on Sept. 15 and just four days later all preseason games through September were canceled. There is speculation that the remaining exhibition games that are scheduled for early October could be scrapped before the sides get together on Friday.
The regular season is still set to begin on Oct. 11, but with so little progress having been made up to this point, it seems less and less likely the NHL will get the 2012-13 campaign started on time.
If nothing else, here's to hoping the owners and players can agree on something on Friday. At this point, an agreement on any issue -- even if it's not one essential to ending the lockout -- would be welcome news.