Carolina Hurricanes president Don Waddell said Friday that owner Peter Karmanos Jr. was not actively looking to sell the team.
Waddell held a press conference during the Canes’ game against the Montreal Canadiens to again dispute a rumor the franchise could be sold and relocated — speculation that heated up again Friday with a media report in Canada that Karmanos might be close to selling.
“That’s where it starts and it grows like a wildfire,” Waddell said of the media report. “There is absolutely nothing (that’s) changed from a year ago.”
Waddell noted NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said, more than once, in the past year that the team will not be relocated and the league is committed to having a franchise in one of the fastest growing markets in the country.
Waddell said Allen and Co., the investment banker used by Karmanos, had been “completely shut down” as far as pursuing a buyer.
“If someone came along and wanted to buy it, I’m sure we’d talk about it but we’re not actively out there trying to find investors,’ Waddell said. “If someone calls and says, ‘Hey, I want to buy the team,’ we’re taking that call.”
Waddell said Karmanos, whose asking price for the team is believed to be $400 million or more, has not turned down an offer although there have been some people who have “looked at it pretty hard.”
The Montreal media, after the Canes’ morning skate Friday, asked some of the Canes’ players about a potential move. The speculation in Canada was that Quebecor, the Montreal-based communications company that backed the NHL expansion bid by Quebec City, was interested in buying the team from Karmanos.
Asked to assess the financial health of the franchise, Waddell said, “I think it’s in the best shape it’s ever been right now.I can tell you we’ve had some pretty big losses over the years. Those losses were much smaller last year and I would say it will be even better (this year).”
Waddell said the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement has brought better revenue-sharing for small-market teams like Carolina. The CBA also reduced the reliance on ticket revenue.
The Canes are last in the NHL in home attendance at 11,319 after the first seven home games this season after finishing 30th last season at 12,203. But Waddell said total revenue hasn’t been negatively affected, due to the decision to significantly reduce the number of complimentary tickets.
Waddell said a few years ago, about 3,500 comp tickets were handed out for each game. He said that total was 714 for Friday’s game.
“I know visually it’s not the same because we changed our policy,” he said of PNC Arena turnouts. “We’re selling the same number of tickets.”
Karmanos recently settled a lawsuit brought against him by his adult sons. The terms of the settlement have not been made public but Waddell said the lawsuit had no effect on the Hurricanes or its finances.
Waddell called Karmanos a very passionate owner, saying, “That’s why he wants to keep this franchise. He’s a big hockey fan, very passionate about this team and the city of Raleigh.”