Money's no object

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

All that was missing were the white steeds, cowboy hats and six-guns.

The Three Amigos from the Calgary Stampeders' new ownership team could have ridden into yesterday's press conference, blasted holes in the ceiling and declared they're here to save this town.

Most folks crammed elbow-to-elbow into the room would have bought into that boast after finally driving Bad Bart (a.k.a. Michael Feterik) out of the territory.

In the end, they didn't save the city, just coughed up the ransom to regain control of this community's football franchise. Quick draws with a pen and chequebook, as it turns out.

The consensus is the local group spent too much -- in the neighbourhood of $6.5 million Cdn -- but it was worth every nickel from their perspective and most fans would agree.

Although emotions clearly got in the way of sound business sense, they finalized the deal and are now passionately tied to restoring civic pride in the team.

"Oh, I'm emotionally connected," laughed Ted Hellard, one of three managing directors along with John Forzani and Doug Mitchell, in the 12-man ownership group.

"For the foreseeable future, this will be my daily passion."

Hellard willingly admits he allowed that emotion to play a key role in the long and arduous negotiations to buy back the team, returning it to community hands after three years under Feterik.

"Totally but that's who I am," Hellard shrugged. "I don't do things logically. I do things based on emotion and if I can't focus and I want to accomplish something, it's because I'm emotionally involved and then I will get it done.

"We're comfortable, whatever we paid for it, it's worth the investment in the community.

"If you can't get passionate about what you're chasing, why chase it?"

Hellard said the football-fan half of his brain was constantly wrestling with the business half and there could only be one winner.

"Oh yeah but the football fan always won out because the business logic never really made sense in many decisions we were forced to make," Hellard said. "I was able to convince the group by saying, 'Let's remember why we're here. It's not about the business logic, it's about the football fans.'

"For me, the turning point was about 18 months ago when I stepped down from an active role in Critical Mass. I looked around to see what was going on in this city to try to decide where I could make a contribution. That's when the Stampeders kind of rose to the forefront to me. Before then, I was just a fan."

Managing director John Forzani also conceded the group may have paid more than the team is worth. In the end, he was relieved to finally stage yesterday's press conference after weeks of emotional bargaining.

"There was a lot of hammering, pounding, phoning, talking, disproportionate to the size of the business, let's put it that way," Forzani said of the sense of accomplishment that comes with the purchase.

Forzani said he wants the Stampeders to be a winning team but a team that participates in the community, not part of the equation under Feterik's absentee ownership.

Next step is to hire a GM or director of football operations who will put in place his staff and make decisions about the coaches still under contract until the end of the month.

"It's our first day," smiled Forzani when grilled for additional information.

The first day of a new football era in Calgary.


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