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WHL to revisit Americans” relocation

Annie Fowler Everett Herald

The future of the Tri-City Americans is up for discussion once again.

Western Hockey League Commissioner Ron Robison has set a conference call for the league’s Board of Governors this morning to revisit the Americans owners’ desire to move the franchise to Chilliwack, British Columbia.

“What we are doing is providing a status report on how we best go forward and meet our objectives long term,” Robison said Friday night. “We are trying to find a solution that is best for the league, the current ownership group and the Tri-City community. I’ve had discussions with the current owners, the local interest group in the Tri-Cities, the city of Kennewick, and all those involved. It’s a complex issue, but one we need to get resolved as quickly as possible.”

The Americans ownership group – which includes Darryl Porter, former Vancouver Canucks general manager Brian Burke, New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather and Tri-City general manager Bob Tory – applied to the WHL for relocation last month, but its application was denied March 31 after more than six hours of deliberations in Calgary, Alberta. The Tri-City owners needed two-thirds, or 14, of the governors to vote in their favor. They received 11.

Voting against the move were representatives from fellow U.S. Division teams Spokane, Portland, Seattle and Everett, along with Brandon, Medicine Hat, Prince George, Red Deer and Saskatoon. Robison said he could not say with certainty that there would be another vote by the Board of Governors.

“If it were to be considered … the matter is broader than that,” Robison said. “I think we left the meeting (in March) with a decision, but we wanted to update the governors with more information. We are looking at how to go forward in the Tri-Cities.”

While Porter and his partners are not looking to sell the team, there is a local interest group willing to step forward to work with or purchase the Americans but not at the going rate for a WHL franchise, which is reported to be $5 million.

The Edmonton Oilers, who would like to own a WHL team, set the bar high in hopes of enticing any owner in the league to sell. With high demand for franchises in markets like Edmonton, Chilliwack and perhaps even Victoria, the league may have to reconsider its stance on expansion.

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