Hunter tired of Knights sale rumours

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:00 AM ET

It has become a standing joke. An annoying, irritating and damaging joke.

"OK," says Mark Hunter, co-owner and general manager of the London Knights, "who have you heard is buying the team now?"

In this rumour, the deal is already done. There are no more negotiations, nothing to sign. The deal is signed, sealed and delivered.

The rumour ("This is the real deal, from a source that knows for certain the deal is done," a deep throat says) has Global Spectrum, the company that manages the John Labatt Centre, purchasing the Knights.

In this version, Global is joined by the members of the consortium that helped build the John Labatt Centre. That would include EllisDon Construction Ltd.

The Ontario Hockey League knows all about it and all that's needed is for the City of London to give the all-clear because the consortium is involved in the John Labatt Centre and the city owns the JLC.

Oh yeah, to make things even more complicated, the Hunters have taken the reported $12 million to $14 million, put some of it in the bank and gone ahead and bought the Sarnia Sting from the Ciccarelli clan because the Hunters want to be closer to home in Petrolia.

In previous rumours, Global Spectrum was supposed to have purchased the team on its own for $18 million. Then there was a group out of Toronto that had bought the team and the announcement was just awaiting the end of the Memorial Cup.

The rumour has become so prevalent that Brian Ohl, JLC facility manager and a regional vice-president for Global Spectrum, visited Hunter and told him a member of London city council called Ohl and told him he'd heard Global now owned the Knights.

No matter how wild the rumour, or the dollar figure, it's repeated over and over.

"Humph," Hunter said. "It just doesn't stop does it?"

Yet another great rumour from a great source that must have got the information in line at the supermarket.

"I'm almost going to have a press conference here pretty soon and tell everybody, 'Guys, we're going into the season, we're not sold,' " said an exasperated Hunter.

"We like what we're doing. We're chasing hockey players. Why would we be chasing hockey players all over the friggin' countryside, trying to get them to come, if I was selling?"

Robert Ciccarelli, co-owner of the Sting, didn't do much but laugh when asked about his role.

"I think I'd know if I was selling, and we aren't selling," Ciccarelli said.

The rumours began with the speed of a brush fire early last season, fuelled by the Knights' success on the ice and at the box office.

But as ridiculous as the rumours are, they take on a life of their own and Hunter is forced to dispel them while at the same time explaining to potential recruits that he and his brother Dale, co-owner and coach, will remain as owners.

"It's non-stop. I've got a business to run here," Mark Hunter said. "I want hockey players to come here. One of the reasons they come is because of the Hunters."

"Why would we sell it? I enjoy what I'm doing. It gives me flexibility to do what I want. If I was working for someone else, they'd want me here punching the clock."

Why indeed?

In a business where job security can change on a weekly basis, the ultimate goal of any hockey person is to be his or her own boss.

The Hunters have that. They have a team that's making a ton of money, is increasing in value and profile, and plays in a great facility. Unless the Hunters are sick of the game, which they aren't, there's no sane reason to sell.

"I really don't know what else I can say," Hunter said. "We're not selling the team. Dale will be back. I will be back.

"I don't know why the rumour continues to circulate. I have no idea."

Now that ought to dispel all the rumours, once and for all.

At least until tomorrow.


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