Knights for sale? No, Hunters say

JIM CRESSMAN, Free Press Sports Reporter

, Last Updated: 6:21 AM ET

It's not true! London Knights co-owners Mark and Dale Hunter say reports they sold, or are about to sell, the Ontario Hockey League team are rubbish.

"It's so untrue. It's 100-per-cent not true," Mark Hunter, the team's vice-president and general manager, said yesterday as rumours snowballed.

"This is out of hand. It isn't sold, it ain't going to be sold. We're not going anywhere, period. It's not true, period. End of story. There's no story -- because it's not true."

This rumour appears to have taken flight in Toronto.

How it began, nobody knows, but former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Bill Watters, now a broadcaster, spoke recently about the Knights on his radio talk show, Leafs Lunch, on Mojo AM 640 and simulcast on Leafs TV.

"I hate to say it, but I was reacting to something one of my colleagues on Hockey Central (a panel show on Sportsnet) said, saying he'd heard the franchise might be for sale," Watters said yesterday.

"What I said on radio was if the Hunters are selling it, it's a time to sell. I've suggested on occasion that Mark and Dale are out in the backyard counting their cash, but I never said they've sold the team."

OHL commissioner David Branch said he saw an intermission report on an OHL telecast out of Barrie last month that said the Knights were sold, with a reference to Watters.

"I called Mark Hunter immediately and he said it's not true. He categorically denied there's any substance to it," Branch said.

"From my perspective, that's all I needed."

Mark Hunter said reports of the sale are making it difficult to recruit players that they might draft in May.

"Parents are asking me," he said. "(But) if we've sold, then why am I out scouting and recruiting, wasting my time?"

Hunter even said he would go to police headquarters and submit to a lie detector test, if that's what it'll take for people to believe him.

"I'll do it because I've got nothing to hide," he said.

Hunter said it was the first time anyone in the media had bothered to ask him.

The Hunters bought the franchise in May 2000. The price tag of $3.8 million also included the former London Ice House/Gardens, which they have since sold after moving into the John Labatt Centre.

As the rumours roll on out of control, one suggestion had Global Spectrum, the Philadelphia-based management group hired by the city to operate the JLC, paying $18 million for the team.

"I hope my cheque is in the bank," Dale Hunter, the team's president and head coach, said with a laugh.

JLC general manager Brian Ohl scoffed at that idea.

"It's absolutely untrue, besides, I can run the building. I can't coach. That would not be good for the franchise," Ohl said.

Another report has Dale, a former Washington Capital star, returning to coach the NHL club, with Mark going as assistant GM.

A source did say Dale Hunter might return to Washington to coach at some point, but not in the immediate future.

Watters said part of the story he heard has Dale Hunter coaching the Capitals.

The Hunters also own farmland in the Petrolia-Oil Springs area, to which Mark Hunter drew an analogy.

"Hockey is our life," he said. "It's like a piece of land and for us to sell the hockey club is like selling our farmland.

"Besides, what are we going to do without hockey? This is all we know."


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