Pass the torch

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

For three years, Calgary Stampeders fans have had few reasons to cheer.

Record losses on the field and three seasons without a playoff game combined with front-office fumbles left the faithful desperate for a shred of good news.

It arrived last week with reports a local group wants to buy the team, if only owner Michael Feterik agrees to play along.

Since buying the Stamps in 2001, the Cardboard King of SoCal has talked about how he's "holding the team in trust" for this community.

Skeptics argue the California businessman is actually holding the team hostage, hoping to spark a bidding war to squeeze the most profit out of an eventual sale.

But for now, let's take Feterik's word at face value.

He was a knight in shining armour, riding in to save our city's quaint little football team when no local groups were interested. (That also isn't true. At least one Calgarian, Christina Saint Marche, was making a serious pitch three years ago to buy the team from Sig Gutsche).

He harboured no ulterior motives.

His son Kevin just happened to be an out-of-work quarterback, looking for a place to launch his NFL career, a la Jeff Garcia, and Dad could afford to finance the experiment.

It didn't quite work out that way but every parent makes sacrifices to help children chase their dreams.

Alas, gravity and reality always set in, as it did with The Feterik Football Follies.

Fast forward to 2004 when groups of local business people -- credible, viable, financially strong Calgarians such as the new collection that includes Internet entrepreneur Ted Hellard -- are anxious to purchase the club and return it to respectability.

No hidden agendas, just a sincere interest in restoring community pride in a local institution.

This new group, revealed in Saturday's Sun, has enough financial clout to make a serious offer for the Stamps.

Here is Feterik's chance to prove his comments about "trust," positioning himself as the team's guardian angel, weren't empty promises.

Based on other reported offers in the past six months and considering what buyers have recently paid for CFL clubs, a $6 million Cdn bid from Hellard's group is more than fair.

Yes, a businessman has the right to profit from his investment but the Stampeders franchise isn't just another factory in Mexico, cranking out cardboard 24 hours a day.

While Feterik has risked his cash and bills have never gone unpaid, Calgarians have also poured their emotional commitment into the Red and White, not to mention an annual investment in tickets, jerseys and assorted Stamps gear.

By selling the Stampeders to Calgary interests, Feterik can now win respect, even from critics who argue he botched up the franchise.

Despite recent published reports suggesting (against all logic) the owner is willing to hold onto his investment for at least a few more years, CFL insiders claim not only is he anxious to sell, the league can't wait to get rid of him.

Feterik has also insisted the club's future has never looked brighter.

In reality, the league's former flagship franchise has sustained more than a little damage under Feterik's stewardship.

This is Feterik's chance to do the right thing by returning the Stampeders into the hands of Calgarians.


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