Sale going slowly / European trip official
Lightning president Ron Campbell said negotions between owner Palace Sports & Entertainment and Oren Koules to buy the team are taking a lot longer than anyone had originally foreseen, but expects talks to go "much quicker in the coming weeks.''
Palace Sports had said it wanted a purchase agreement in place by the end of the month.
From his vantage point, commissioner Gary Bettman said there are "no red flags.'' And while we've heard that one before, the difference this time is Bettman apparently is much more closely involved than the first time, when Absolute Hockey Enterprises imploded and their bid for the team died.
It died, however, with Bettman brokering a deal that stopped a lawsuit between the partners and allowed Koules, a Hollywood producer, to mount a bid on his own, though his OK Hockey also includes his business partner Mark Berg and, as far as we can tell, California banker Russell Belinsky. The parameters of the deal are the same: $200-million for the team, the St. Pete Times Forum lease and 5.5 acres of land near the arena.
"I'm much more closely involved this time. There are no red flags,'' Bettman said at his All-Star news conference. "There are discussions going on in a way that if they reach a successful conclusion, should enable this transaction to proceed in the ordinary course.''
Campbell said koules is a "very, very passionate hockey person,'' and that if the sale proceeds, fans in the Tampa area "will be very, very excited.''
As far as the European trip to open next season, it is finally official, though everybody seems to have known about it since September. Lightning will play twice against the Rangers in Prague. The Penguins and Senators will play twice in Stockholm. There still is a possibility the Lightning will play an exhibition game in Europe before the games in Prague.