SUN Hockey Pool

Ownership changes hot topic for NHL

(L-R) Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan and Calgary Flames...

(L-R) Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan and Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla. (QMI AGENCY/REUTERS/GETTY IMAGES)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:46 PM ET

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Who could be coming or going into their exclusive club will be one of the topics on the agenda at the NHL's two-day board of governors' meetings which get under way Monday at the Breakers Hotel.

What's happening in the ownership suites around the league will be discussed at the governors' bi-annual meeting, with Chicago financier Matthew Hulsizer expected to discuss his efforts to buy the Phoenix Coyotes from the league and keep them in Glendale. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman set a deadline of the end of the month for Glendale and a potential owner to get a deal done to keep the team in the desert or the league would entertain offers that could see the team moved.

Other ownership topics will likely include the rumoured negotiations between Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano and Pennsylvania billionaire Terry Pegula, who would keep the team in Buffalo.

Pegula, who sold his oil and gas company for $4.7 billion, is a Sabres fan and his wife is from Western New York. He's a former season ticket holder going back to the Sabres' days at the old Aud.

The governors will also get an update on the shuffle among Calgary Flames ownership which will see Harley Hotchkiss, one of the club's original owners who brought the team to Cowtown from Atlanta in 1980, step down and his 22% ownership stake absorbed by his partners.

The December board meeting is also an opportunity for Bettman to update the governors on the league's business to date and give them a projection on where the salary cap is going for next season, which could be the last under the current CBA.

Despite some attendance issues in places like Dallas, Colorado, Atlanta, Columbus, Florida, Long Island and Phoenix, all playing to less than 80% of capacity, early indications are business is good thanks to growth in new media and sponsorships. The cap could go up another $2 million to the $61 million range for next season, which would include the NHLPA's option for a 5% boost.

NHL senior vice-president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell is also expected to give a presentation on the implementation and consequences of the league's new blindside hit rule, a presentation similar to the one he gave to the league's general managers at their meeting last month in Toronto.

Some interesting talk could also be centred around the NHL's television rights deals, which are up after this season.

The NHL has enjoyed improved ratings and could be in a position of relative strength when negotiating new fees. Some league insiders predict the NHL could see a 50% boost in U.S. rights fees when all is said and done.

The NHL has been getting about $69 million a year from Versus since the lockout (the original deal was $207 million for three years coming out of the lockout and that deal was extended another three years) and has a revenue sharing deal with NBC.

There is talk ESPN will be interested in grabbing at least a weekly package and some playoff action in the next deal.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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