History will keep score in Edmonton arena case

Oilers owner Darryl Katz. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI Agency file photo)

Oilers owner Darryl Katz. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI Agency file photo)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:51 PM ET

NEW YORK - Mayor Stephen Mandel's hair was not on fire.

"Even if I come out with what little hair I have left on my head on fire, I'd have a pretty upset city council if I informed everybody before I informed them," he said on the flight here about what to expect from the downtown Edmonton arena showdown here if it were successful.

Looking tired after a six-hour session with Daryl Katz and Gary Bettman and the three negotiating teams, Mandel emerged from the 45th floor meetings at NHL headquarters here Wednesday with something he seemed encouraged with to take back to council.

"We had good discussions," said Mandel.

"Productive discussions.

"I appreciate the help Mr. Bettman gave us today."

But the mayor would not offer a single, solitary clue in terms of content Ñ as, indeed, he telegraphed would be the case if he came here and had something to bring back that he felt was encouraging.

"My job is to report to city council before I report to the media," he said.

"I intend to do that Friday. After that, I'd be glad to answer any more questions," he added of not wasting time upon his return with the deadline Katz set for Halloween Ñ due to expiring land options for the downtown arena and entertainment district Oct. 31 1/3 looming large.

There were few words involved from anybody coming or going from the marathon showdown as Mandel and Katz were summoned here to get the deal, once approved 8-5 by city council subject to things they were still dealing with five months later, back on the rails.

The meetings began at 10 a.m. and Katz spoke briefly with representatives of three Edmonton TV stations on the street in front of the building on his way to the entrance.

"We're looking forward to productive meetings. That's all we're going to say now," he said.

One reporter asked him if he was hopeful of reaching a deal at the meeting.

"That would be our hope," he said.

The only news coming from the 45th floor offices of the NHL commissioner was shortly after 1 p.m. when word came down that lunch had been ordered up.

When the summit session was over, Mandel left the building from the same front door he entered, where media spent the afternoon on watch in case either Katz or Mandel bolted, throwing their arms up in the air on proceedings.

Didn't happen.

Katz managed to avoid the media with his exit but used similar words as Mandel in a statement released not long after.

"It was a productive day and we appreciate the efforts of all involved. We are not going to comment further pending the mayor's update to city council," he said.

A league source suggested it was a "constructive session where the parties appear pretty close."

That was the stated goal of both Mandel and Katz in pre-meeting interviews with your correspondent here.

"We are here to get it done," Katz said before Bettman called for a media blackout prior to the crucial meeting.

"We have some significant issues to resolve. We're confident where there's a will, there's a way. We have to get this deal right for the city of Edmonton and ourselves. We feel this is about seizing the opportunity to transform our city and lock the Oilers into longtime sustainability in Edmonton."

The mayor put it another way.

"I know without a doubt that if we get it done and look back five years from now and 10 years from now, nobody will be saying a negative word. And I know if we don't get it done, and five and 10 years from now we don't have a hockey team and we don't have any improvements to our downtown and we look back, there will be a lot of people wondering how we could have done that to our city. I think everybody involved, including Daryl Katz and Gary Bettman want the team to be successful and stay in Edmonton."

It's now Mandel's job to inform council of the details of the Bettman-facilitated framework for a new deal and, equally important, to explain to council what is at stake.

History will be keeping score.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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