Sabres Not For Sale? No Kidding, But a Deal Could be Closer Than You Think

Matt SchaeferCorrespondent IDecember 8, 2008

The Buffalo Sabres are not for sale.

The statement above seems pretty obvious but their was a report that came out of a Western New York Hockey Magazine discussing the sale of the team.

The magazine claimed that talks about selling the team are ongoing, although in an early stage. The report, which cited unnamed sources, said that Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie, the founder of Research in Motion, has been approached about buying the squad.

TSN (Canada's ESPN) reached Balsillie's agent, Richard Rodier, which had his clients name taken out of the story.  Rodier said "From time to time reports surface quoting anonymous sources claiming a club is for sale, or that Jim is doing this or that with respect to a particular club.

These reports have generally been inaccurate. More importantly, these reports unfairly put the incumbent owners (or club management) in the uncomfortable and potentially destabilizing situation of having to comment on these inaccurate reports. Very unfairly. As such we have no comment beyond referring you to the statement made by Larry Quinn, the Managing Partner of the Sabres."

So what exactly did Larry Quinn say, the  managing partner and minority owner of the Sabres?

"We are not in negotiations to sell the team and as we have stated in the past, we will never entertain discussions to move the team out of Buffalo."

The report, written by Jim Kelly (no not the football playing Kelly but o the irony.  While the Bills Jim Kelly is trying to save the Bills, the writer Jim Kelly reports the Sabres might be on the move.")

Staying in Buffalo was the key point to Quinn's statement, seeing as Kelly's report said that if the team was bought by Balsillie, they would be playing part of their season in Hamilton, Ontario.

Sources that were able to contact Toronto are saying that there are at least two "well-financed" groups looking to purchase a team and put a second franchise in Southern Ontario. Balsillie has been attempting to do the same thing with no compensation to the Sabres and Maple Leafs.

The report just so happens to come on the first day of the NHL Board of Governors meetings in West Palm Beach, Fla.

So after being trashed and basically called a liar, Kelly stuck to his story and had this to say:

"We've been actively pursuing this story for about a month now, and it has several facets to it, but one is that the Sabres are for sale," Kelley said.  "This time, there appears to be a player of some interest that we have not been able to ascertain who it is yet, but the person we're told by our sources has an NHL background, an expertise in this area and the two sides are talking."

"There is also been a secondary report we received that there's been an outreach to Jim Balsillie in Hamilton, with the possible idea of selling there and maybe perhaps playing a few games up there."

This news could not come out at a worse time for Buffalo fans as they just watched their football team play in the Rogers Centre in a series of games that would be played in Toronto.  So with Bills fans already worried about the pretty good chances of their team moving when owner Ralph Wilson Jr. passes, now has this to worry about this.

Sabres fans will always be grateful for Tom Golisano saving the team from bankruptcy back in 2003 and keeping the Sabres in Buffalo.  Instead of trying to run a team to win the championship though, Golisano is a business man that is more worried about the bottom line to put more money into his already overflowing wallet.

This report is quite believable after a similar report that came out last season about the team being sold off and it just so happens that Balsillie's name came up in that too.  Golisano will sell the team if the right price comes along which is mind boggling seeing as he bought the team cheap and in a few short years, has already doubled the team value.

However, I still think that Golisano will hang onto the team or sell it to someone who will indeed keep it in Buffalo and for one reason only, his public image.

Golisano will not want to be the person remembered for selling off the team and having them moved right under his nose.  He would never hear the end of it and it would destroy his public image which he is very fond of, especially when shelling out millions to his political friends.

Not to mention that he lives just down the highway in Rochester.

So just when we thought that one team in Buffalo is on the way out, it seems like we might have been worried about the wrong owner.  Ralph Wilson is not going to sell his team to anyone while it seems like Golisano might just do so.

He continues to remain silent also, which never helps anything, the same reaction he took when the news broke last season.

Maybe this whole time, we have been worried about the wrong owner moving the team away from Buffalo.