Is money enough to land Oilers?

BOB STAUFFER

, Last Updated: 7:37 AM ET

In a perfect world, Edmonton billionaire Darryl Katz and the existing Edmonton Investors Group, led by Cal Nichols would co-exist.

Unfortunately the financial landscape of the NHL for the last two decades has been far from perfect and has handicapped the Edmonton Oilers regardless of ownership.

On Tuesday of this week a possible change was offered, that could see the Oilers finally not only succeed but truly prevail.

The reclusive Katz expressed his vision for involvement as an Oilers owner. It included spending up to the cap on a yearly basis, devoting time and resources into building a new downtown arena and also stepping up to the plate to help build an elite practice facility for the Oilers in conjunction with the University of Alberta.

REVELATION

For fans it was likely a revelation, the richest individual in the province in 2006 according to Canadian Business online, looking to help give the Oilers organization every competitive advantage in the future.

Almost immediately though, the naysayers popped up second-guessing Katz as a potential owner.

Where was Katz in 1997 when current Chairman Cal Nichols was trying to put together a group to save the franchise from what appeared it to be an inevitable move to the States?

Will the billionaire just treat the Oilers like a rich man's toy?

Let's set the record straight on a couple of things here.

Katz's company has taken off in the last decade and is billing $6.5 billion a year. In the Top 100 produced by the aforementioned Canadian Business Online, Katz ranked as 16th richest Canadian in 2006, ahead of the owners of the Vancouver Canucks and the Ottawa Senators. Three other names with Edmonton ties are behind Katz on the list; Bill Comrie, the Shaws and the Ledes and the last time I checked none of those three stepped up in 1997, and none are interested now in being involved with the Oilers.

Katz has also put his money where his mouth is right here in Edmonton.

Be it Rexall Place, the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton, or the largest ever donation to a pharmacy faculty in Canadian history, the man has bucked up.

From his statements on Tuesday it appears as though he recognizes that the Oilers, though privately-owned, remain a public trust, not a rich man's toy.

Right now though the club is in the hands of the EIG and I don't see that changing even with Katz's third offer being north of $175 million.

The life-blood of the organization, EIG Chairman of the Board Cal Nichols, who twice resuscitated the team in the 1990s and should be enjoying the Oilers relative financial prosperity and health since the lockout, is surely going through a tough time right now.

There is no question that some of his older partners on the EIG want to cash in their chips. But I am told from multiple sources that the majority of the shareholders do not want to sell.

If the EIG don't sell, they will have to create a new mission statement for their long- term plans for the organization to match some of Katz's promises.

CLEAR UNDERSTANDING

Nichols, who is the most important sporting figure in the city over the last decade, has shown a clear understanding of doing what is right for the fans and the team. He fought like hell during the lockout for small market franchises and has come to be respected by his fellow governors at the NHL level.

Right now it is possible that Katz and Nichols are adversaries as Katz is trying to get the EIG's team, but you kind of wonder what would happen down the road if the two could work together.

A young deep-pocketed civic-minded billionaire learning the NHL game from a classy, venerable governor who saved a franchise - that would just be too perfect

Who knows? One day they might just need each other.


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