Happy trails

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:37 AM ET

Disneyland has been coined the Happiest Place on Earth.

And the enchantment from the Magic Kingdom has been rubbing off on the Anaheim sports scene over the last few years.

First, the Anaheim Angels won the World Series in surprise fashion last year and then this spring, the oft-maligned Mighty Ducks had a fairy-tale run to the Stanley Cup final.

The National Lacrosse League is banking on a little of that good luck benefiting the New Jersey Storm franchise, whose official relocation to the Southern California city was announced yesterday.

The Storm, who will be renamed, will play out of the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, whose operators (ARA) will own a small part of the team and handle its day-to-day operations, marketing and sales.

The Storm\'s embattled owner, former NBA star Jayson Williams, remains part of the ownership group.

Williams is currently facing manslaughter charges in the death of his chauffeur, Costas Christofi, who died of a shotgun wound to his chest at the Williams estate on Feb. 14, 2002.

All those involved with the move have refused to say if Willams remains the majority owner, confirming only that his involvement is still \"substantial.\"

The Storm, expansion cousins of the Calgary Roughnecks in 2001, averaged just 5,300 fans at the Continental Airlines Arena last year and struggled on and off the floor.

The Albany Attack, who also drew poorly, relocated to San Jose last month.

\"This is another significant step forward for our league,\" said NLL commissioner Jim Jennings. \"The National Lacrosse League is committed to finding strategic partners like the Arrowhead Pond for our underperforming franchises.\"

While things might be looking up for the Storm and Attack, three other NLL teams are currently in limbo.

The Ottawa Rebel and Columbus Landsharks will either move or \"go dark\" for the season, said Jennings. He added there are ongoing negotiations, with Columbus rumoured to be heading to Phoenix -- with Wayne Gretzky involved in the ownership group -- and Ottawa to London, Ont., Winnipeg or Edmonton.

As well, the New York Saints, who recently had five key players declared free agents by the commissioner\'s office for failure by the Saints to fulfil contractual obligations, are trying to secure a deal with a new, local ownership group.

The league\'s deadline for ownership changes or relocation bids is midnight tonight.

The addition of San Jose and Anaheim has been described as economically beneficial to the Roughnecks, Vancouver Ravens and Colorado Mammoth, the only three NLL teams not based in the eastern U.S.

Roughnecks president and GM Brad Banister sees the addition of California-based teams as a big positive for the league and a huge step towards the NLL\'s goal of being the fifth major sport.

But as for Calgary saving a buck or two, it\'s unlikely.

\"Not a whole bunch I don\'t think,\" said Banister, in Vancouver this week scouting senior-A Western Lacrosse Association games.

\"Last year, we had some doubleheaders (on the east coast) so this may end up actually costing us more. But it will make for much shorter trips.\"


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