Monday, April 4, 2011

Brian Burke weighs in on Victoria

Brian Burke obviously has too much time on his hands.
The man who runs the Toronto Maple Leafs has found time to write a letter to Jim Mullin, the sports director at radio station CKNW in Vancouver.
Actually, the letter came from Burke via his lawyers.
The letter has to do with Burke being unhappy over some comments Mullin made about Burke “seeking vengeance on the Canucks.”
More interesting than that, at least for WHL fans, are a couple of Burke comments pertaining to the impending move of the Chilliwack Bruins to Victoria.
If you came late to this story, Burke owns 25 per cent of the Bruins. He, Glen Sather and Darryl Porter, each of whom owns 25 per cent, have a deal to sell the franchise, but not to minority owners Moray Keith and Jim Bond, who own the other 25 per cent.
Rather, they will sell to Graham Lee’s RG Properties, which holds the management contract for the Save-On Food Memorial Centre in Victoria, the home of the ECHL’s Salmon Kings.
In his letter to Mullin, who has been on top of this story from the get-go, Burke writes:
“Graham Lee has been promised a WHL franchise in that city.”
Unfortunately, Burke doesn’t explain why Lee “has been promised” a team for Victoria. Of course, Dave Dakers, who is president of RG Properties sports and entertainment and also operates their ECHL franchise, is tight -- they are fishing pals -- with Bruce Hamilton, the president of the Kelowna Rockets and the chairman of the WHL’s board of governors. Maybe that has something to do with it.
Remember, too, that the City of Victoria, which owns the arena there, has told RG Properties that it will extend its management contract through 2046 if it is able to land a WHL franchise. That contract now is to expire in 2036.
But wait . . . there’s more.
Later, Burke writes that it was “. . . the WHL’s and Mr. Lee’s desire to have an established team in Victoria rather than an expansion team. This will not leave Chilliwack without a WHL team. The WHL is in the process of negotiating the movement of another WHL team to Chilliwack.”
So let’s really upset the apple cart, why don’t we?
Not only do fans of the Bruins have reason to be up in arms, but now fans in Prince George, Cranbrook, Swift Current, Lethbridge, Prince Albert and anywhere else where people might be feeling at all paranoid about the future of their WHL franchise are dragged into the fray.
What this letter from Burke does do is erase all doubt, if there was any remaining, about the fate of the Bruins. While no one in any official capacity with the league or the Bruins or RG Properties has been up front and transparent about any of this -- hey, there may have been tickets to sell to a Game 6 in Chilliwack between the Bruins and Spokane Chiefs -- Burke at least has come clean about part of this mess.
Now if only someone would explain why a franchise that was in its fifth year of existence and was showing signs of becoming competitive for the first time is being sold and moved on down the road.
And, by the way, is there a guarantee somewhere that says the WHL in Victoria will be a rip-roaring success? What if the team struggles for the better part of five years, as have the Bruins?
Mullin’s complete report is right here.
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