Sunday, April 24, 2011

The saga of the Chilliwack Bruins — a chronology

What follows is something of a chronology of events leading up to the announcement of the sale and relocation of the Chilliwack Bruins, mostly gleaned from the work of Tyler Olsen of the Chilliwack Times and Eric Welsh of the Chilliwack Progress.
Cast of characters, in order of appearance:
Ron Robison: WHL commissioner.
Moray Keith: Minority owner of Chilliwack Bruins and co-owner of Chilliwack Development Group (CDG), which manages Prospera
Centre.
Jim Bond: Minority owner of Chilliwack Bruins and co-owner of Chilliwack Development Group (CDG), which manages Prospera
Centre.
Darryl Porter: One of the Bruins’ three majority owners; he was the franchise’s governor.
Dave Dakers: President of RG Properties’ sports and entertainment division. RG Properties manages Prospera Place in Kelowna and the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria; it also owns the ECHL’s Victoria Salmon Kings. RG Properties bought the Bruins.
Brian Burke: President and general manager of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs; one of the Chilliwack Bruins’ majority owners.
Glen Sather: President and general manager of the NHL’s New York Rangers; one of the Chilliwack Bruins’ majority owners.
Jim Mullin: Manager of the sports department at CKNW, an AM radio station in Vancouver. He was fired by CKNW on April 20 and tweeted that his dismissal had "everything to do with" his reporting of the sale of the Bruins.
Glen Ringdal: A consultant who works with Moray Keith and Jim Bond.
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2001: “Our interest in Victoria began in 2001 (and) intensified with the (2005) opening of the new facility (Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre).” — WHL commissioner Ron Robison, on The Hawk 89.5, April 20, 2011.
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2009: “In 2009, Robison told the league’s board of governors that the WHL might try and move the next team up for sale to Victoria.” — Tyler Olsen, Chilliwack Times, April 21, 2011.
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February 2009: “February of 2009, as part of its strategic plan, the Western Hockey League Board of Governors made a decision to actively pursue securing a WHL franchise for the Victoria market. At that time, the WHL Board of Governors were advised that should a franchise become available for sale, the WHL may elect to relocate the club to Victoria. Although expanding the league beyond 22 teams was not ruled out, the WHL Board of Governors preference was to relocate an existing team. Further expansion was not considered a viable alternative due to the demand it would place on the talent pool of players and the ability for WHL Clubs to remain competitive at the national level.” — WHL press release, April 20, 2011.
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November 2010: “Keith told the Times that Bond came away (from a Jan. 13 conference call) not thinking that a decision had been made and that no vote was taken. He also said CDG had a standing offer to buy the club dating back to November 2010. Porter said that he knew of no such offer and that there was no ambiguity as to CDG's willingness to sell.” — Tyler Olsen, Chilliwack Times, April 21, 2011.
———
December 2010: Darryl Porter asks Chilliwack city council for $175,000 per year to prop up sagging revenues. The request is turned down.
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Early January 2011: In early January, Keith says that Bruins president Darryl Porter met with Robison during the World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y. According to Keith, “Robison told (Porter) point blank that if they wanted to sell, they had to sell to Victoria.” — Tyler Olsen, Chilliwack Times, April 21, 2011.
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January 2011: “Dave Dakers, president of RG Properties sports and entertainment division, said the genesis of the deal was when he met Darryl Porter on a ferry in January.” — Cleve Dheensaw, Victoria Times Colonist, April 20, 2011.
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Jan. 13, 2011: “Burke and Porter talked about a Jan. 13 conference call in which Jim Bond allegedly gave his and Keith’s approval to the pursuit of a sale, at the same time locking the group into exclusive negotiating rights with Victoria. . . . Keith wasn’t involved in that meeting, but he got a play-by-play from Bond. . . . ‘Burkie talked and he was the only guy that talked, and it was presented as a fait d’accompli that this was done,’ Keith said. ‘Jim is adamant that he didn’t concur in a unanimous way that it should be sold. Porter, Burke and Sather agreed to sell the team. That’s 75 per cent and that’s not unanimous.’ ” — Eric Welsh, Chilliwack Progress, April 20, 2011.
———
March 4, 2011: Western Hockey League commission Ron Robison says Chilliwack remains a viable market for major junior hockey. And with rumours flying about the possible sale of the Chilliwack Bruins, Robison told the Chilliwack Times . . . that the league office hasn't received any notice that a sale is imminent. Robison said "there is tremendous interest in purchasing franchises around the league . . . but right now there's been nothing filed with us to indicate that there's been anything material occurring." — Tyler Olsen, Chilliwack Times, March 4, 2011.
———
March 4, 2011: Asked if the league stresses keeping teams in their current markets, Robison said "absolutely." He continued: "It's clearly our desire to keep them where they are. From time to time we have to review relocation but that's been very rare. There hasn't been a relocation in our league for many, many years." — Tyler Olsen, Chilliwack Times, March 4, 2011.
———
March 4, 2011: When asked by the Progress whether the team would be playing in Chilliwack in 2011-12, the answer wasn't exactly a resounding yes. “I would be very surprised if the Western Hockey League isn't playing hockey in Chilliwack,” Porter replied. — Eric Welsh, Chilliwack Progress, March 4, 2011.
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March 4, 2011: Asked whether the Bruins would be playing in Chilliwack in 2011-12, (Robison) offered this. “It is certainly our intent and we haven’t considered anything different at this point.” — Eric Welsh, Chilliwack Progress, April 21, 2011.
———
March 4, 2011: Asked about the league’s strong desire to get into Victoria, (Robison) offered this. “We are very interested in that possibility, and it’s just been a case of whether we can accommodate that. At this point, we’re not in a position to do that.” — Eric Welsh, Chilliwack Progress, April 21, 2011.
———
March 2011: “In March, Porter told the Times that the owners were weighing ‘multiple offers.’ The owners were, however, negotiating with only one other partner. On (April 20) he apologized for the misleading statements, saying that he was trying to respect a confidentiality agreement and that there was still a possibility that the team wouldn’t be sold to RG Properties. ‘I still had some belief that we would be enticing other offers,’ he said.” — Tyler Olsen, Chilliwack Times, April 21, 2011.
———
March 15, 2011: The Chilliwack Progress reports that Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, who “has ties to the area,” is interested in helping keep the Bruins in Chilliwack. "Justin has expressed his interest in being involved with us as an investor in hockey based in Chilliwack," Keith said in an e-mail to the Chilliwack Progress. "We would be honoured to have him involved. It is all predicated obviously in our successfully securing the team.” — Chilliwack Progress, March 15, 2011.
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March 15, 2011: The Chilliwack Progress reports that “a news article this morning said there is pressure on Burke, Sather and Porter to accept a bid that would land the team in Victoria. That would fly in the face of commments WHL commisioner Ron Robison made in a Chilliwack Progress interview last week.” . . . “The league's position on ownership is always to look for local ownership,” he said. “That is always a priority. We have to make sure we have the right type of ownership, but if there is local interest, that is something we would want to explore.” — Chilliwack Progress, March 15, 2011.
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March 17, 2011: “On March 17, the WHL Board of Governors granted conditional approval for the sale of the Chilliwack WHL franchise and final agreements were then signed.” — WHL news release, April 21, 2011.
———
March 31, 2011: “Darryl Porter not confirming sale of Chilliwack Bruins at 5:50pm. Says it's not done. Says no sale agreement signed despite speculation.” — Randy Merkley, the radio voice of the Bruins, via Twitter.
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April 5, 2011: The WHL issues a news release saying it has granted conditional approval to the sale of the Chilliwack Bruins. The news release doesn’t identify a buyer.
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April 4, 2011: Burke, in a letter through his lawyers to Jim Mullin earlier in the week, claimed that the WHL had “promised” a franchise to Graham Lee, the chief executive officer and president of RG Properties. . . . Burke also wrote 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.”
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April 11, 2011: “Keith cited an April 11 phone conversation between his right-hand man Glen Ringdal and Porter where Porter fingered Robison and the WHL executive as the masterminds behind the Chilliwack-to-Victoria plot.” — Eric Welsh, Chilliwack Progress, April 20.
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April 18, 2011: The WHL announces that a news conference will be held April 20 in Victoria.
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April 19, 2011: The deal between RG Properties and the Bruins owners closes.
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April 20: 2011: The WHL announces the Bruins will be relocated to Victoria.

gdrinnan@kamloopsnews.ca
     
gdrinnan.blogspot.com
     
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