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Nine cities bid for NHL teams

January 12, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Nine cities seeking an NHL expansion franchise will make presentations to the league’s owners this week.

The NHL Board of Governors will listen to the presentations on Monday and Tuesday. The league is expected to add two teams during the next round of expansion, and another two teams by 2002, although no exact timetable has been set.

``We’re not in any rush, and if we do it, we’re going to do it in an orderly fashion,″ NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said at the Board of Governors meeting last month in Arizona.

Atlanta, where the Flames played from 1972-80 before moving to Calgary, and Houston are considered the front-runners. The other applicants are Nashville, Tenn.; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Oklahoma City; Columbus, Ohio; Hamilton, Ontario; Hampton Roads, Va.; and Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

The 26-team league has added five teams since 1991, with Anaheim and Florida the last to join in 1993.

Although nine cities have applied for expansion teams this time, there are actually 11 applications because Houston has three groups seeking a franchise.

Chuck Watson, owner of the Houston Aeros of the International Hockey League, heads one of the groups. Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and a group headed by Gavin Maloof, whose family used to own the Rockets, also will make presentations.

``We are very confident about it,″ said Aeros general manager Steve Patterson. ``Our application is very solid. First, Houston is a great market. Second, we have a solid, wealthy owner. Third, we have a place to play, which the others don’t, and we’ve been the hockey operation in town.″

Patterson doesn’t think having three offers from one city will weaken Houston’s chances of landing a team.

``Actually, I think that speaks more to the strength of the market to have three groups interested in operating a hockey franchise here,″ he said.

Raleigh and Hampton Roads, which are only 200 miles apart, have been considered longshots since the league accepted expansion applications on Nov. 1. But the Raleigh bid, led by Charlotte businessman Felix Sabates, may be moving up on the list.

``I’ve heard they (NHL owners) are intrigued with the geography of Raleigh,″ said Bob McKenzie, editor of The Hockey News.

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