SUN Hockey Pool

Hotchkiss sale part of estate planning

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:55 PM ET

Harley Hotchkiss wants it known that while he may be selling his shares in the Calgary Flames, he isn’t turning his back on the franchise he brought here 30 years ago.

The club means too much to him and has been a source of such great pride and joy for him to simply walk away.

“Really, what this is is a part of long-range estate planning for me,” said Hotchkiss, whose 22% stake in the club has been sold to the Flames ownership group pending approval of the NHL board of governors this week.

“I’m staying as a director and alternate governor, so my role with the team won’t change. It’s been an important part of my life and will continue to be so.”

The Calgary Sun learned of Hotchkiss’ ownership transfer through a leaked agenda from the board of governors meetings — information the 83-year-old Hockey Hall of Famer and Calgary icon figured would garner attention as he was chairman of the board for 12 years.

“We did a similar (ownership transfer) with Doc (Seaman) and BJ (Seaman) years ago, but mine gets more profile because I know all the other governors and alternates so well,” said Hotchkiss, whose philanthropic efforts made him a companion of the Order of Canada.

Flames president Ken King says despite Hotchkiss’s health challenges and pending status change, “he remains a valued and important member of the board, attends all meetings, is on all calls, and at games with his partners and will continue to do so far into the future.

“The adjustment to Mr. Hotchkiss’ holdings is a separate and private matter,” added King.

As one of the men chiefly responsible for the success and stability of the franchise, it’s encouraging to hear Hotchkiss will maintain his voice amongst ownership, as the club is on the precipice of having to make monumental decisions as it moves forward.

Asked if his group had been contemplating a change in direction for his struggling team, the oil and gas magnate was ever diplomatic.

“We do meet regularly — at least once a month — and, as you might imagine, team performance and where we are in the hockey world does come up,” Hotchkiss said with a chuckle, refusing to divulge any secrets.

“I wish the team was doing better, but I’ve been there before.”

Now for more notes, quotes and anecdotes from a sports world wondering if anyone noticed that Sidney Crosby’s incredible tear of late (17 goals, 31 points in 15 games) all started with his fight with the Dallas Stars’ Matt Niskanen Nov. 3.

Around the horn

If there has been a more spectacular save than the diving effort made by Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas in overtime of Saturday’s shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, I haven’t seen it … Tell me again why NHL players in every city shouldn’t be saluting the fans at centre ice after home wins at the very least? … Looks like the next coach to be fired for his team’s indifferent play is Ottawa Senators bench boss Cory Clouston. The team has clearly given up on him, opening the door for a reluctant GM Bryan Murray to take over behind the bench any day now. There are no other coaching alternatives for the Sens, as they are still paying Craig Hartsburg, who just had heart surgery and was relieved of his duties in the nation’s capital last February … While you’re bound to hear endless Brad Richards trade rumours over the next few months, the fact remains if the Dallas Stars are still in a playoff spot by the trade deadline, they can’t possibly gut the club by moving the pending unrestricted free agent. Unless a new owner is found for the Stars quickly, there’s no chance Richards will re-sign in Dallas. Still, with a dwindling fan base, you can’t rip the heart out of a team when it matters most and think the fans won’t revolt.

Parting gifts

E.J. McGuire, Brendan Shanahan and Colin Campbell are all gung-ho on having the NHL’s Research and Development camp return this summer. Last year’s Toronto-area camp, which tests out several potential rules changes and tweaks to improve the game by way of controlled scrimmages, was the first since the lockout. The added allure of the event is having all the top draft-eligible 17-year-olds, attracting top scouts and GMs. Not only that, but given the media coverage it received last year, there’s talk of increasing sponsorship and perhaps opening the doors to fans. They wouldn’t rule out the possibility of ultimately moving it around the country if it continues to grow. “We’d like to move it to Hawaii or Aspen,” joked Campbell … Those father/son trips so many NHL teams do are subject to league approval, as they can’t be too extravagant or their cost would be subject to the salary cap. Interestingly, the cost of flying a player home to be with his wife when she’s about to give birth does count against the cap. Flying the New Jersey Devils to Pat Burns’ funeral Monday did not count against the cap.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ericfrancis

- Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC’s Satellite Hotstove during Hockey Night in Canada


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