It was announced yesterday that Oren Koules and Co. at OK Hockey have entered into exclusivity with Palace Sports and Entertainment to purchase the Tampa Bay Lightning, the lease to the St. Pete Times Forum and 5 and 1/2 acres of land:
"I am excited we were able to take such a positive first step today," Koules said in his statement. "Most importantly, we established a clear and direct path so we can work together towards a definitive agreement as quickly as possible."
I could get into other little factoids from the sale article (hoping for a January finalization of a deal, etc) but it was Tampa Lawyer (and representative of another interested group) Tom Scarritt's quote that irked me:
"We're disappointed," Scarritt said. "But we wish them luck, the city of Tampa luck, and we'll stand by."
Seems pretty innocent, right? Disappointment, wishing luck all around... yet the City of Tampa being wished luck? Why would the city need luck on things?
It's a continuing seed of doubt being laid - consciously or subconsciously (and seeing he's a lawyer, you bet your ass he's consciously doing it) - about OK Hockey and the "risks" involved (and when I say risks, I mean relocation) in having an out-of-town group buy a local sports team. You may recall that I touched on this being inserted in the Times story about the Lightning's suitors. What I didn't bring up, or print, was local lawyer Steve Burton pulling out the fear-monger card:
"The way I see it," Burton said, "this is a bulldozer moving under its own inertia with a number of local people interested in stepping up and stopping some of this foolishness."
Burton was referring to Koules' attempt to buy the team.
Yet I missed something that should put all of Scarritt's (pun intended?) spin to rest once and for all. Something that should have been recalled by local sports writers as well as fans. For this we'll jump back to our out of the blue introduction to Oren Koules, Jeff Sherrin and Doug MacLean... August 7th to be exact. Of course the little factoid I want to remind everyone of isn't from Absolute Hockey, but from Tom Wilson at Palace Sports and Entertainmen. Per my own words:
The team is not relocating and Palace Sports would have received a larger amount of money if they were open to the idea of selling to a relocation-minded group.
I can't find Wilson's exact quote from that day but this was re-iterated in the press: Palace Sports wouldn't be selling the team to a group with relocation plans.
Even if, four months later, local would-be suitors would like you to believe that's what's being negotiated.