Edmonton still waiting for WHL franchise

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:10 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- If the WHL returns to Edmonton via expansion, it won't be before the 2007-08 season.

President Patrick LaForge, who is spearheading the Edmonton Oilers bid to bring an expansion franchise to the city, said yesterday indications from the WHL are the league won't be adding a 22nd franchise, for which Edmonton is considered the front-runner, for two more seasons.

LaForge and Oilers governor Cal Nichols will meet with the WHL board in Calgary Oct. 12, but will go into the meeting with the understanding further expansion for 2006-07 won't happen.

"There won't be a vote at the meeting. It'll most likely be in January and it'll be for 2007-08," LaForge said. "They've backed it up a year. The right thing to do is make sure you don't dilute the talent pool too much."

The WHL expanded to 21 teams by granting Chilliwack, which includes investors Glen Sather and Brian Burke, a team for 2006-07.

The Oilers hoped to join the league with them.

"I'd like to get to work and get going, but I understand their concerns," said LaForge.

"The fire is out of the bucket. Instead of an urgency, this (bid) can be more staged."

The longer term also will provide the Oilers more time to pursue purchasing an existing franchise.

That is something the team's been trying to do for the past 24 months or so.


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