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Mayor doubts appeal in Seattle

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EDMONTON -- Edmonton's mayor says if the Oilers are serious about trying to relocate the NHL team to Seattle, good luck drawing fans in the Pacific Northwest.

"The Oilers have sold out what 150 to 200 games in a row (in Edmonton)," Stephen Mandel said in a TV interview Tuesday morning.

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"In Seattle you have football, baseball, if they get an NBA team (then it will be pro basketball), college football, college basketball, and then hockey. I'm not sure you're going to sell out 18,500 seats a game or 18,300 seats a game there at $8,000 a season ticket."

Mandel was commenting on Oiler brass, including team owner Daryl Katz, visiting with Seattle officials Monday night to discuss relocating the team to that city.

In a news release, the team said it has no choice but to review other options.

"After more than four years of trying to secure an arena deal and with less than 24 months remaining on the Oilers' lease at Rexall Place, this is only prudent and should come as no surprise," said the team statement.

Mandel, however, pointed out that the latest impasse is the result of new demands made two weeks ago by the Oilers. Those demands include millions of dollars more in concessions from taxpayers on top of an arena that is already being funded mainly by taxpayers and by a ticket tax.

"We thought we had a deal a year ago in October, and now we don't have a deal," said Mandel.

"We need to know what the Katz Group wants ... We don't know what that is."

Mandel said talks are ongoing between the Oilers and city officials, but reiterated he wants the affair settled one way or another by the city council meeting on Oct. 17.

"We've had some meetings (with the Oilers) and they were moving along, we thought, productively," said Mandel.

"One week Mr. Katz says how important the Oilers are to Edmonton and vice versa and then they're off in Seattle. I don't know. Time will tell what ends up happening."

Katz's Monday visit came on the same day that Seattle city council approved hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen's plan for a US$490-million arena that both sides hope will be home to an NBA and NHL team. Seattle lost its NBA team, the Sonics, to Oklahoma City in 2008.

However, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman downplayed the threat of the Oilers moving to Seattle in a statement released Tuesday.

"We continue to believe that an arena deal is achievable, and with a new arena there should be no reason to have any doubts about the future of the Oilers in Edmonton," Bettman said.

The Seattle talks sparked a firestorm of outrage on Twitter and in online letters to the editor from Oiler fans.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 26, 2012 C2

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