Bettman continues support for Sabres

Nov. 12, 2002 at 7:37 PM
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BUFFALO, N.Y., Nov. 12 (UPI) -- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman renewed his support for the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday and said the process of selling the cash-strapped team is accelerating.

Speaking before Tuesday night's game between the Sabres and Boston Bruins, Bettman refused to set a deadline for the sale of the franchise, which has been operated by the league since owner John Rigas and two sons were indicted on fraud charges following the collapse of Adelphia Communications.

"We continue to move forward," the commissioner said. "I'm optimistic we're a lot closer to the end of the process than the beginning. But I'm not in a position tonight to state anything specific.

"We continue to believe in Buffalo. We're beginning to accelerate the process now. While some bids may be further along than others, we're now going to move this along as quickly as possible. If somebody can't catch up, then so be it."

Bettman said he has met with two interested buyers -- Rochester billionaire Tom Golisano and Mark Hamister, who owns the Buffalo Destroyers of the Arena Football League. Golisano just completed another unsuccessful campaign for New York governor.

"I met with Mr. Golisano and Mr. Hamister. That's all I'm prepared to say on this subject," the commissioner said.

Bettman expressed disappointment over poor ticket sales in Buffalo, where attendance is down sharply.

"I'm not setting any deadlines, I'm not issuing any threats, I'm not issuing any ultimatums, but I am disappointed," he said. "This is an important time for this franchise to show the support demonstrated high.

"As I've said repeatedly, it's a lot easier for us to operate this franchise without an owner than it is without season ticket holders."

The Sabres also are struggling on the ice. They are mired in an eight-game winless streak (0-6-2) that is the club's longest in nine years and are next-to-last in the Eastern Conference with a 3-8-3-0 record.

"I know the league believes in the Buffalo market for NHL hockey, we believe in the Buffalo Sabres," Bettman said. "We're not doing anything other than making 100 percent of our efforts to make sure this franchise has a bright future here."

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