Report: Senators to file for bankruptcy

Jan. 7, 2003 at 8:18 PM
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OTTAWA, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- The cash-strapped Ottawa Senators reportedly are about to file for bankruptcy protection in the United States and Canada.

The move could be followed by a cash infusion from the National Hockey League.

TSN of Canada reported Tuesday that an announcement could come "as early as the next 24 hours."

Citing an anonymous source, the Ottawa Sun reported Tuesday that the NHL is poised to announce a financing package that would help the Senators get through the summer. Team spokesman Phil LeGault refused comment on both reports.

Tuesday's developments came a week after FleetBoston Financial Corporation and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce backed out of a complex $234 million deal that would have erased much of the Senators' considerable tax debt. The plan included $42 million to cover operating expenses, including players' salaries.

The team missed a payroll payment Wednesday, with players receiving a note from owner Rod Bryden, saying they would be paid in the "next couple of days."

So far, Ottawa's financial woes have not filtered down to the ice.

The Senators lead the NHL with 56 points and have just three losses in their last 28 games (20-3-4-1).

Ottawa is not the only NHL franchise facing an economic crisis. Prospective owner Mark Hamister has until Friday to complete his purchase of the Buffalo Sabres. Hamister and partner Todd Berman last week received an extension from the NHL, but are trying to win support from New York state officials for a $30 million economic development package.

If Hamister's bid fails, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has not ruled out bankruptcy for a team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals just 3 1/2 years ago.

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