SUN Hockey Pool

Would sole ownership work?

JOHN SHORT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:14 PM ET

After more than 40 years as a media wretch in this great sports town, I have an admission to make: the Edmonton sports fan keeps confusing me.

For the last couple of months, I've been trying to come to grips with the feeling that many devout Oiler-watchers hope Daryl Katz becomes either the sole owner of our NHL franchise or ranks at the head of a small group.

It's easy to understand why some of the current ownership group would like to get out. They committed themselves and their bankrolls to keeping the NHL in Edmonton.

They have been remarkable and generous citizens.

But one-man rule didn't work the last time Edmonton had a single high-profile owner. Peter Pocklington had a massive ego. He listened to nobody. Remember?

Sole ownership also didn't work with Bruce McNall in Los Angeles or Harold Ballard in Toronto. It doesn't work these days with Bill Wirtz in Chicago, Jeremy Jacobs in Boston or Wonderful Wang on Long Island.

Some of those former owners were under-funded masters of disguise. In the great words of former Oakland Athletics baseball owner Charley O. Finley, they had big hats but no cattle.

Ethics were also a problem for McNall and Ballard, who spent time in the crowbar hotel.

Clearly, funds (or lack there of) are not a problem for Katz, a billionaire who controls Rexall and other money-making ventures. After throwing $20 million into construction of his Edmonton home, he still ranks among the world's wealthiest citizens.

It's essential to note that there have been no questions about his personal or business integrity, either.

One selling point seems to be that Katz might invest some of his vast supply of dollars into a downtown arena. You know the story: provide more bells and whistles for the paying customer and simultaneously inject life into a neglected corner of our city.

It's almost automatic to assume that all will go well.

If so, Katz will be anointed by many as a true hero. His exalted status will last until his team starts to lose on the ice and at the negotiation table, as all franchises must sooner or later in the fullness of time. Then, guaranteed, he'll start taking heat.

Here's a note for your calendar: if Katz gets his wish, buys the team and and contributes to a spectacular facility that is certain to give him more money-making opportunities, it's only a matter of time before some wise guy starts to call the new building Wrecks-All Place.

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His presence on the team bus and behind the bench will serve as a constant reminder to junior players that effort and preparation can overcome lack of sheer talent.

Nobody worked harder than the retired enforcer, who laboured to skate but gained respect at every stop in a long career because he staked heart and soul on the line every night for team, teammates and town.

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