VANCOUVER - Daryl Katz was in his box in Rogers Arena here last night celebrating with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman while on his cellphone with Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel who was about to walk into a press conference at city hall back home.
ďThe vote was 8-to-5,Ē he said as he hung up.
ďItís a great day for the City of Edmonton, a very significant day for the city,Ē he said. ďItís a great day for the Edmonton Oilers.
ďItís been my dream. I donít know if itís going to be my legacy. Iím too young to be thinking about my legacy. But itís been a dream.
ďI said it when I bought the team.
ďI had three objectives.
ďI wanted a successful, sustainable hockey franchise in Edmonton. It wasnít sustainable when I bought it.
ďI wanted to build a world-class arena, which we didnít have.
ďAnd I wanted to create a revitalization of downtown Edmonton.Ē
Katz said he was thrilled to have it essentially a done deal and to be able to forge forward on the hockey side to have a team like the one on the ice putting the boots to San Jose 7-3 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final which he was enjoying from the second-level box inside the Canucks blue-line.
ďItís a new message to the world about Edmontonís downtown. With the art gallery and now the arena district which will come into being, it will really make a statement.
ďThatís been my motivation from the beginning. Itís always been about Edmontonís downtown. If I just wanted to build an arena, I could have built it anywhere.
ďItís not just about the arena, itís the whole package.Ē
Katz promised an arena which will be state of the art and bring great pride to the city.
ďIt will reflect the Edmonton Oilers, five Stanley Cups and what we want downtown Edmonton to be,Ē said the owner who finally will be able to be celebrated in the city after the messy bit of business to get to this day.
In the end, the deal is fair and reasonable in all directions and makes it a wonder it took so long and had to be so messy.
The Edmonton Oilersí owner said he didnít want to offer specific details of the deal because he wasnít involved in the final details.
ďItís a framework from which the final deal can be reached,Ē he said.
ďIím not sure of the details. Obviously I approved the framework,Ē he said of the facility which will be tabbed at $450 million, limiting the city contribution to $125 million and the Katz commitment to $100 million with a $125-million user fee, the one item which was holding up the deal with the city owning the building and the land and the Katz Group operating the building and responsible for all maintenance, upgrades, operating and capital costs.
Katz also will sign off on a location agreement keeping the team in Edmonton for 35 years.
The Oilers owner said heís hopeful heíll have his team playing hockey in the building by 2014 when the agreement with Edmonton Northlands expires.
Bettman said he was thrilled for the city he played a big part in keeping in the league back when Peter Pocklington tried to sell it to Les Alexander and helped direct the Edmonton Investors Group to take over and keep the team in town.
ďItís a very positive step for the franchise. I compliment the mayor and city council for working hard with Daryl Katz to get this done and congratulate Edmonton on this day,Ē he said.
It wonít be long now before Edmontonís back-to-back last place seasons in the 30-team NHL and the drafting of a second straight No. 1 pick will be remembered as a turning point in the history of the franchise.
But this day will always have a special place in the history of the City of Champions. Itíll change the face and the image of our city.