December 1, 2010
Oilers talk moves to Quebec City?
By KARINE GAGNON, QMI Agency
QUEBEC CITY – Top Edmonton Oilers executives, including President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe, are to meet Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume Wednesday to discuss possible relocation, QMI has learned.
Oilers President and CEO Patrick Laforge and Paul Marcaccio, with the Katz ownership group, have also travelled east as talks to build a new and profitable arena in Edmonton remain stalled.
“We don’t know what to expect from this meeting,” Lowe, a former captain of Quebec City’s junior hockey team, told QMI.
“Just the fact that we’re meeting Mayor Labeaume to discuss possibilities, the sky is the limit. Exchanging ideas is the main goal of the meeting.”
A source close to the Oilers says team officials decided to explore relocation options amid opposition in Edmonton to a $1-billion arena that would be partially funded by taxpayers. The Katz Group proposes that the city borrow $400 million to build the facility, with the money being paid back through tax revenue generated from surrounding developments.
Some city councillors balked at the idea, though Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel calls the project “innovative and creative.”
The Katz group wants construction to begin in less than 18 months and the source tells QMI that Oilers brass are worried about the slow pace of negotiations.
“They even met (NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman two weeks ago … if Quebec makes them an offer, they might consider it,” said the source.
Quebec City already has the support of its provincial government to build a $400-million arena as the first step to bringing NHL hockey back to the capital. The Nordiques left for Colorado in 1995 and there has since been a groundswell of support, including massive public rallies, pushing for a new team.
Federal financing would be key to completing the financing of new arenas in Edmonton or Quebec City. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has so far stopped short of committing money to either project.
Lowe says relocation is not the only option for the Oilers, explaining that team management will also discuss ways to work with Quebec City’s mayor to press Ottawa to chip in for arenas in both cities.
“We’re doing all we can, ” said Lowe. “We’re talking to a lot of people, including Mayor Labeaume, to see where we are, where they are and if we can brainstorm together.”