Carolina Hurricanes president Don Waddell met with members of the local media during Friday night’s game against the Montreal Canadiens to address the seemingly endless speculation about the team’s future in the Raleigh market.
Waddell said that today’s firestorm of speculation about relocation has its roots in the host of a Montreal radio program, Martin McGuire, who started this line of discussion earlier this week before the Canadiens arrived in Raleigh. It took on a life of its own at the morning skate this morning, when the Canes locker room was besieged by questions from Canadiens reporters about the possibility of relocation.
“There’s nothing that has changed. There’s nothing to report,” Waddell said.
Waddell accused McGuire of being responsible for the last time this subject came up, not coincidentally the last time that the Habs were in town.
Regarding the team’s revenue streams, Waddell indicated that despite the large numbers of recent empty seats, the Canes’ revenue is up over recent years. It is helped by a robust revenue sharing program that has drastically reduced the reliance on gate receipts, down from a high of nearly 70% before the 2005 CBA went into effect to about 30% today.
“Revenue sharing at one time was $6-7 million per team,” Waddell said. “Now it is much greater than that. The league has done a tremendous job of assisting teams who are not going to be a market like some of our competitors when it comes to attendance. The salary cap and revenue sharing works very well for all 30 teams.”
Additionally, Waddell said that while the investment bank advising Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos is still technically under contract because there is no end date on the contract, they are no longer actively utilizing the bank’s services in attempting to find a buyer.
“We’ve shut down our investment banker. If someone comes along saying they would want to buy it, we would talk about it,” Waddell said, adding that everything has a price. “But we are not actively looking for investors. I haven’t met with prospective buyers in the past four or five months.”
Asked specifically if Karmanos had received an offer to buy the team that he turned down, as had been reported in Quebec media late last season, Waddell said directly that the answer was no. “We’ve had some people look at it some pretty hard, but we have not had to turn down an offer,” he said.
The Canes’ president seems to be resigned to the fact that this line of discussion is going to flare up from time to time, but was clear in his position that the fundamentals of the team both on the ice and in the front office are in solid shape and the team is not under any threat of a sale or a relocation.
“You can talk about an owner not spending time here, but he has put resources into this team and he is very passionate owner,” Waddell said. “That’s why he wants to keep this franchise. He is a big hockey fan, and he is very passionate about this team and about the city of Raleigh.
“There is no doubt that the team is headed in the right direction, and that will be a big part of the team’s success moving forward.”