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 Bill Davidson's Palace Sports to sell Tampa Bay Lightning 
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Post Bill Davidson's Palace Sports to sell Tampa Bay Lightning wrote:
Bill Davidson's Palace Sports to sell Tampa Bay Lightning
8/7/2007, 1:57 p.m. ET
The Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A group led by former Florida Panthers coach Doug MacLean has agreed to buy the Tampa Bay Lightning and says it has no plans to move the franchise that won its only Stanley Cup three years ago.

"Absolute zero thought of that," MacLean said at a news conference following the surprise sale by Palace Sports and Entertainment, a group headed by Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson.

"Typically, you come into a situation where ownership has been an issue," MacLean added. "We're following a great ownership group that took the Tampa Bay franchise and really put it on the map."

Davidson bought the Lightning in 1999 and helped transform the club from a perennial last-place team struggling to sell tickets into a franchise that won the Stanley Cup in 2004 and has made the playoffs the past four seasons.

The one thing Davidson couldn't do, though, was make the Lightning profitable.

Team officials have said the club has lost more than $70 million under current ownership, and that the only season the club made money was during its championship run.

Still, the sale caught many in the organization off-guard.

Although current Lightning chairman and governor Tom Wilson said talks with MacLean's Absolute Hockey Enterprises had been ongoing for about six weeks, the team never was formally placed on the market by Davidson.

"We really weren't (for sale)," Wilson said. "But one thing he always said, even to (NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman years ago, is `I'll know when the time is right. But the one thing I want to promise you is if and when the time comes, we're going to sell it to the right people.

"Passionate hockey people, people with Florida roots so we can have local ownership. ... And, it's going to be people who are committed to the game.'"

The purchase agreement also includes the leasing rights to the St. Pete Times Forum and about 5.5 acres in properties adjacent to the downtown arena.

MacLean declined to discuss the purchase price, saying the sale still is subject to approval by the NHL's board of governors.

MacLean coached Florida to the Stanley Cup finals in 1996. He was fired in April as the Columbus Blue Jackets' president and general manager.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
© 2007 Michigan Live. All Rights Reserved.

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August 7th, 2007, 4:36 pm
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