Hamilton mayor confirms talks with Balsillie representative Staff

5/7/2009 6:24:45 PM

If Jim Balsillie is successful in acquiring and relocating the Phoenix Coyotes, it appears the franchise will - at least initially - play out of Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario. Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger confirmed that he had a meeting with a representative of Balsillie's legal team on Thursday where discussions took place to have the city enter into an agreement involving the potential team and the downtown arena.

Balsillie had another agreement in place with the City of Hamilton almost exactly two years ago when the billionaire co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion had a bid in to purchase the Nashville Predators. In May 2007, Balsillie had a lease arrangement with Hamilton City Council which allowed a prospective team to use Copps Coliseum as a temporary or permanent home, with the team retaining all revenue from the arena. The deal also gave Balsillie naming rights to the rink, and some control over adjoining Hamilton Place and the convention centre.

The meeting on Thursday left the mayor enthusiastic about the possibility of an NHL franchise relocating to a city that has long been interested in having one.

"There is a huge excitement in town, as you might expect. People are excited but cautiously optimistic," said Eisenberger. "We've been to the altar before, and we don't want to be the bridesmaids, we want to be the bride. So whatever agreement we put together will be to bring hockey to Hamilton on a permanent basis, not a temporary basis."

"We have a facility that has been ready, willing, and able to house hockey in Hamilton, that was actually built for that purpose. So discussions will continue, and we expect that within the next week or two we'll have something to bring to council that reflects our hopes and dreams and wishes to bring hockey to Hamilton and possibly reflects Mr. Balsillie's hopes and dreams and wishes as well."

Coyotes captain Shane Doan commented on the club's ownership situation from the World Championship in Switzerland.

"There's so many mixed reviews coming out from one side or the other side... It's always a tenuous time when, as a player, you're not sure what going on," Doan told TSN. "But it will sort itself out and as a group we're okay and we'll find out - we'll be playing hockey next year somewhere."

Doan was asked about the possibility of playing again in Canada, as he did during his rookie season with the Winnipeg Jets in 1995-96.

"You know what, it's one of those things.  Either way, I'm going to be excited.  I'm still in the NHL and getting to play hockey.  I've been in Phoenix (a long time), I love Phoenix and my family is all from there, so it's a pretty special place for them. But obviously Canada is my home country and everything, so either way, I'm okay."