Nhl's Nordiques Sold, Moving West To Denver Comsat Entertainment Group Bought The Team. Quebec Had Refused To Fund A New Hockey Arena.

Posted: May 26, 1995

The Quebec Nordiques, an NHL franchise since 1979 and the second-best team in the league during the regular season this year, were sold yesterday to COMSAT Entertainment Group and will be moved to Denver for next season.

The sale, which marks the return of an NHL franchise to the Mile High City, is likely to be approved by NHL owners on June 21. Denver lost the Colorado Rockies to New Jersey in 1982.

"We think the NHL is going to be great in Denver," Charlie Lyons, president of COMSAT, said yesterday in a telephone conference call from company headquarters in Bethesda, Md. "The Rocky Mountain region is really becoming sort of the center of the universe, and we think our fan base will be considerable."

Not everyone was delighted with the sale, however. Flyers president Bob Clarke did not mention Nordiques president Marcel Aubut by name, but he criticized club owners in general who are too committed to making money and not concerned enough about the NHL and the game of hockey.

"It's become blackmail," Clarke said. "They say, 'Build me a building. Pay for my losses or I'm leaving.' I think the business is still screwed up."

Said Flyers coach Terry Murray, a native of Shawville, Quebec: "I really feel bad about it. It's a statement, I guess, towards where the game is. It proves to all of us that the owners need some kind of agreement that is going to help them survive in the business."

The sale culminates three months of negotiations between Aubut and COMSAT. COMSAT first offered to purchase the Nordiques in February, mainly to give Aubut more leverage in his negotiations to win a new arena and financial assistance from Quebec's provincial government.

Aubut has said for years that his team could not compete against wealthier

clubs, citing a lack of revenue from television and luxury boxes, and an aging arena.

But Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau this month rejected Aubut's request for full funding of a $125 million hockey arena.

The team, which will no longer be known as the Nordiques, will share the 17,000-seat McNichols Sports Arena for the next two seasons with the NBA's Denver Nuggets, which are also owned by COMSAT.

After that, both clubs are expected to move into the $130 million 19,000- seat Pepsi Center that COMSAT plans to build in partnership with The Anschutz Corp. The companies hope to complete the building in time for the 1997-98 season.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday thanked the fans of Quebec for their support of the Nordiques over the years but noted that the poor economic reality was apparently too much for Aubut to overcome.

"We understand that every alternative was explored to keep the Nordiques in Quebec City, but that the club had no choice," Bettman said.

Lyons said the $75 million purchase price would give COMSAT the Nordiques, its development squad, its minor-league club at Cornwall, Ontario, and player contracts. He said that COMSAT had no plans to move the Cornwall farm team but that some Nordiques executives would work for the club in Denver.

The Denver Grizzlies play in the International Hockey League.

BRUINS NAME COACH. Steve Kasper was introduced as coach of the Boston Bruins, confirming reports that he would get the job even though his head coaching experience was limited to just one season in minor-league hockey.

At 33, Kasper will be younger than some of his players.

No Bruins coach has lasted more than three seasons since Gerry Cheevers' nearly five-season tenure ended on Feb. 13, 1985.

The Boston job became vacant just over a week ago when Brian Sutter was fired after the Bruins' first-round playoff elimination. General manager Harry Sinden said then that Kasper and Bruins assistant coach Tom McVie were candidates for the position.

But McVie was fired last Friday and said he was told that Kasper would get the job. Kasper's contract reportedly will be for two years plus an option season at about $250,000 per year.

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