Are Amerks staying put?

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:58 AM ET

MILWAUKEE -- While Thursday's vote by the WHL's board of governors to deny the Tri-City Americans relocation to Chilliwack, B.C. for the 2005-06 season leaves the door open for the Edmonton Oilers, a group in Kennewick has an interest in keeping the team in Washington. The group that's come forward includes Malin Bergstrom of Bergstrom Aircraft, as well as local businessmen Bill Lampson and Bill McCurley.

The group made clear its interest in the wake of the vote in the form of letters to WHL commissioner Ron Robison and the board of governors.

Even if team owners Darryl Porter, Glen Sather, Brian Burke and Bob Tory decide to sell, and nobody in the ownership group has indicated that's the case as of today, it's clear several WHL governors want to keep the team in Washington to maintain the integrity of its U.S. Division. That would seem to put the Bergstrom group at the front of the line.

"I've talked the league and there's an interest in keeping the U.S. franchises where they are," said president Patrick LaForge, the front man on the Oilers' bid to acquire a franchise.

NATURAL RIVALRIES

"That's my understanding, and I can see some natural rivalries there. By and large, they have some good cities. I see what they're trying to do."

Porter indicated after Thursday's vote that selling the team is a possibility and that the ownership group will take a few days to weigh its options, of which the Oilers are one.

"We decided we needed about four days to get together and decide as a group whether to come back to the Tri-Cities or look at alternative offers," Porter told the Tri-City Herald.

"We know the team is worth $4 million U.S. by the offer we had from Edmonton."

The Americans have spurned two offers to purchase by the Oilers, including a pitch last month as the deadline for filing to relocate approached. Porter and LaForge haven't talked since.

A STANDING OFFER

The Oilers have been looking to purchase a franchise for over a year, and they made that interest known to all WHL owners with a standing offer of $5 million -- that amount was based on completing a deal in time for the start of this season. The offer made in March was for somewhat less.

"To be honest with you, I don't see any link between what happened with the relocation vote and any benefit to us," LaForge said. "If something is going to come out of it, they're know we're here."

LaForge indicated last week he'd had casual discussions with a team other than the Americans, but declined to offer specifics on those talks.

CIRCUS STILL GOING: How old is Tony Hrkac? Well, when Hrkac turned pro with the St. Louis Blues back in 1987, Road Runners' rookie Jeff Deslauriers was three years old and toddling around in a diaper, not goal pads.

Hrkac, who played 36 games with the Oilers during the 1997-98 season, turns 39 this coming July 7. He's played for 17 different teams in his 18-year pro career. He's in his second season with Milwaukee.

"If I'm not here, I'm done," said Hrkac, who has settled here and has two kids attending high school.

"It's been fun here.

''This is a hard-working bunch of young guys who want to win."

Going into last night's game with the Road Runners, the Thunder Bay native had tallied 12-24-36 in 70 games with Milwaukee.


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