Will NHL Send Adelphia to Penalty Box?


Adelphia Communications Corp.'s ruling Rigas family could lose its coveted
National Hockey League team, the Buffalo Sabres, as early as Thursday, according
to reports.

According to reports on ESPN.com and
Adelphia's own Empire Sports Network, league officials, set to meet in Toronto
Thursday, will discuss a Sabres takeover, among other matters.

Empire reported Tuesday, citing anonymous sources, that the NHL Board of
Governors was ready to take over the team before Adelphia filed for bankruptcy
protection in an effort to shield the franchise from creditors of the cable

NHL vice president of communications Bernadette Mansur denied reports of the
league takeover of the team, saying that league commissioner Gary Bettman was
only scheduled to give the Board of Governors an update on the Sabres.

'There is no action to be taken at that meeting. No vote is to be taken,'
Mansur said.

A takeover of the team by the league would require a vote by the Board of

Sabres VP of communications Michael Gilbert said he had no knowledge of a
possible league takeover.

'Nothing has changed in our ownership,' Gilbert said. 'We've had some
cash-flow issues and we're working through them. We're confident that there is
going to be NHL hockey in Buffalo next year.'

The NHL has been watching the Adelphia situation closely. While the
Coudersport, Pa.-based MSO does not own the team, the Sabres owe the cable
company as much as $150 million, according to recent Adelphia SEC filings.

According to those filings, a Rigas-family partnership, Niagara Frontier
Hockey LP, borrowed $150 million from the MSO. Published reports said the debt
would have to be cleared up before the league would take control of the

Mansur said league officials met with Adelphia management last Thursday, but
she declined to reveal any details.

'It was a very productive meeting,' she said. 'All sides were updated.'

A takeover by the league is highly unusual, but not precedent-setting. In
1983, the NHL took over the St. Louis Blues franchise after the Board of
Governors rejected a sale by then-owners Ralston Purina Co. to a group that
planned to move the franchise to Canada.

After Ralston padlocked the arena and threatened to liquidate, the NHL seized
the team, later selling it to a California real estate developer who kept the
franchise in St. Louis.

If the NHL were to seize the Sabres, it could make a sale of the team

According to reports in TheBuffalo News, at least two
Buffalo-area sports-team owners have expressed interest in buying the Sabres --
Robert E. Rich Jr., owner of the AAA Minor League Baseball affiliate Buffalo
Bisons, and Mark E. Hamister, owner of the Buffalo Destroyers of the Arena
Football League.