Sherry Bassin continues to deny reports of the Erie Otters’ impending move to Ontario. First, it was Hamilton. Now it’s the Chatham-Kent region.
“Absolutely no truth to it,” Bassin, the OHL club’s managing partner and general manager, said in response to a Chatham-Kent Sports Network report Tuesday stating that a deal has been reached to sell the franchise to a “prominent local businessman.”
Bassin previously has denied reports of the franchise’s potential move to Hamilton, including a report that he has spoken with Michael Andlauer, owner of the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, about purchasing the Otters. “Everytime I turn around, I’m going to five different places,” Bassin said.
According to the Chatham-Kent Sports Network report, an announcement regarding the Otters likely would be made following the Memorial Cup, the CHL’s annual championship tournament, which begins Friday and runs through May 26 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Bassin said he continues to receive inquiries about the Otters. “That’s it,” Bassin said, referring to not moving any closer to selling the franchise. Bassin said franchises can’t be sold and moved without approval from the OHL through a lengthy league-mandated process. “The process is so complicated. It’s so involved,” he said.
David Branch, OHL commissioner and CHL president, wasn’t immediately available for comment Wednesday, since he was traveling to Saskatoon.
Bassin, who moved the franchise to Erie from Niagara Falls, Ontario, in 1996, has one year left on a two-year lease agreement with the Erie County Convention Center Authority, which operates Erie Insurance Arena. The Otters are set to play the 2013-14 season in a newly renovated arena.
Chatham-Kent Sports Network reported that a recent meeting between the Otters and “the organization that operates their arena” to work on a new lease had been canceled twice in the span of a week. Bassin said he has had no meetings scheduled with the ECCCA. “We’ll look at that. We’ll see how things go,” Bassin said of pursuing a lease beyond next season, referring to waiting to evaluate the final arena renovations and community response toward the team next season. Casey Wells, ECCCA executive director, didn’t immediately respond to a telephone message Wednesday.
– Victor Fernandes