Updated: Tuesday, 19 May 2009, 8:50 PM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 19 May 2009, 6:29 PM EDT
Hamilton, Ontario - They want NHL hockey in Hamilton, and they're going to push as hard as they can to get it. And after failing twice in recent years to lure a team to the Ontario city, civic leaders there think they're chances are good.
"They're better than ever, " Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger told News 4 Sports. "We've been in the hinterland for quite some time, been told no way, it's not happening. It's just not the market we're focusing in on."
Eisenberger and other Hamilton hockey boosters say you can't count just the half million residents of their city, you have to take into account the nine million people who live around the area--from the suburbs of Toronto the U. S. border.
Another Hamilton hockey booster, businessman Ron Foxcroft, is good friends with Jim Ballsillie, the founder of the company that makes the Blackberry, and serious suitor for an NHL team. Foxcroft knows how determined Ballsillie can be.
"Passionate, competitive, right down to golf, checkers, anyhthing he does. He is a very, very competivie person," Foxcroft says.
One key queston for Sabres fans, is can Hamilton fill the seats in Copps Coliseum, without hurting the Buffalo Sabres. Foxcroft thinks it can happen. "We're just hoping in Hamilton that we get an NHL team, and it doesn't hurt the Buffalo Sabres. Personally, we're season ticket holders for the Buffalo Sabres. They're nothing like toing to a game in Buffalo."
What do the Sabres think? The team's managing partner, Larry Quinn, says talk of putting an NHL franchise in Hamilton raises a number of questions for the Sabres.
"If somebody said would you approve a team in Hamilton, I'd say, OK, what's the deal?" Quinn told us. "What are the television rights? Is there a territorial fee? What division are they in? Who do they play? What arena are they in? There's a whole myriad of questions, and nobody can answer those."
Jim Ballsillie's bid to move the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton will hinge on a bankrtupcy court ruling in Arizona. But if that effort fails, it's not likely to be the end of the push for hockey in Hamilton.
"If we don't get the Phoenix team in Hamilton, we're going to get an NHL team in Hamilton, with Mr. Ballsillie," says Foxcroft.
According to Mayor Eisenberger, "We wanna have hockey happen in Hamilton, and as long as there's opportunities out there, we're going to explore them."