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NHL Will Accelerate Bidding Process for Sabres

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says he is getting closer to selecting a new owner for the Buffalo Sabres. Bettman began his tour of NHL cities in Buffalo Tuesday.

Bettman began his media briefing by informing reporters that he had "no breaking news" on potential ownership. But he did say the NHL is ready to accelerate the bidding process and is "closer" to identifying a new owner.

"I'm comfortable that we've explored the number of opportunities that are out there," Bettman said. "While some bids may be further along than others, we are now going to move this along as quickly as possible and if someone can't catch up, then so be it."

Bettman did confirm that he met separately Tuesday with Rochester billionaire Thomas Golisano and local businessman Mark Hamister, but would not offer details.

Golisano voiced interest in buying the team while campaigning for governor, but says he has not yet submitted a written offer. Bettman refuses to set a deadline for naming a new owner.

Lagging ticket sales and attendance levels were also addressed. Bettman says Buffalo has experienced the biggest drop in attendance among all NHL teams. However, he says, in the past Adelphia boosted attendance levels by handing out complimentary tickets.

"Adelphia was in some measuring supporting the franchise for the last few years," Bettman said. "Now as we peel it back to its core, this is a season ticket base needs greater support."

Bettman says the hockey club continues operating without a financial plan in place. He admits that at some point it may need help to survive. He says over the years the Sabres franchise has "chronically" lost money.