Oilers owner should sign location agreement with city

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:37 AM ET

Daryl Katz should make a clear statement to Edmonton and sign a location agreement immediately.

Because of what went down in Hamilton Tuesday Edmonton needs to know that Katz doesn’t have a veiled threat in place for further negotiations involving the proposed downtown arena project.

Patrick LaForge spitted it out yesterday.

“Optically it’s not perfect,” said the Oilers president and CEO. “It’s spitty timing, maybe.”

Real spitty.

So spitty that this is the time for Katz to show that what happened Tuesday will not now, or in the future, come into play as a hammer hanging over negotiations. He needs to now sign Location Agreement II in Oilers history.

On Tuesday, Katz received the unanimous approval of Hamilton City Council to enter into a non-binding memorandum of understanding toward obtaining lease control of the Copps Coliseum and other venues.

The No. 1 reason NHL hockey remained in Edmonton is that three wise men — Bob Turner, John Butler and Rick LeLacheur — forced Peter Pocklington to sign a location agreement. That resulted in Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander making his famous U-Turn after he landed here and had somebody waive the agreement in front of his face. The Oilers suitor hightailed it to the airport, cursing Pocklington all the way home.

There’s absolutely no suggestion here that I believe Katz has any intent to have the Oilers franchise exist anywhere other than Edmonton.

And if he did, right now, Edmonton would tell him to perform an anatomically impossible act and go ahead. Under the current economic climate there would be another NHL team here in about 10 minutes.

But suddenly, with what happened Tuesday in Hamilton, the optics did indeed became brutal.

There may be zero intention to have a veiled threat in place. But it’s there now isn’t it?

And the arrogance of the 30th-place Oilers, combined with the lack of transparency hits again. If you were headed to Hamilton to do all this, wouldn’t it be the right thing to do to call Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, give him a head’s up and explain the intent involved?

The story right now isn’t that the Oilers are going to Hamilton.

Far from the case. I believe LaForge when he says “it’s not about the Edmonton Oilers.”

I believe that Katz Entertainment Holding Corporation (as in holding hands with AEG out of Los Angeles?) has targeted the Southern Ontario market — “the Copps Coliseum, possibly the Convention Centre, Hamilton Place and a number of parking lots and a yet to be built Pan-Am Games stadium” in the words of LaForge, to do major sports and entertainment business.

But it’s not a large leap, however, for an Edmontonian to see an owner who has managed to create ill will with his ham-handed aggressive tactics in an attempt to get public funding for a new downtown arena putting himself in position to play the good old Hamilton card as Peter Pocklington in the ’90s and so many others have done.

If you’re looking for conspiracy theories, this looked to be more Katz serving himself up as an NHL-friendly front man not named Jim Balsille to open the door back up to Hamilton while setting himself up to effectively be AEG Canada.

It may even position Katz to buy the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from Bob Young, who doesn’t like the proposed location of the new Pan-Am Stadium which LaForge said he loved, and/or buy a soccer team to move into the Pan-Am stadium.

The suggestion was also that Copps was an old building that needed to be replaced with a big new one and it’s not such a big jump to identify the proposed Pan-Am stadium site with an AEG L.A. Live type development like Katz is trying to put together for Edmonton.

Included in the Katz delegation was a representative from AEG, the Los Angeles-based sports and entertainment industry giant, which signed on to help develop the Edmonton downtown arena and entertainment proposal.

All or any of that may not be the case either. But again. Optics.

LaForge said it’s the first big step “to grow beyond the boundaries of Edmonton.”

He said that the spitty (not the exact word he used) timing was due to “securing it before it slipped into someone else’s hands.

“I guess this is confusing to some. I expected to get some of these questions. It’s purely a business strategy. Hamilton is not about the Oilers. Edmonton is about the Oilers.”

So sign a location agreement.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


Photos