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Bankruptcy Looms for Sabres

Buffalo, NY – The financially troubled Buffalo Sabres are expected to seek court protection from their creditors Monday. The Buffalo News reports the team could file for Chapter Eleven bankruptcy protection this morning, and that National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman is expected in Buffalo this afternoon to confirm the filing.

The franchise is expected to list debts of over 238 million dollars, with assets of 68 million.

It is not known how a bankruptcy filing would affect businessman Mark Hamister's efforts to buy the team.

He was granted a second one-week deadline extension on Friday to finalize his bid. Hamister said they will continue to work hard to finalize a deal.

"For the next week I will just continue to suffer from sleep deprivation as we work long hours everyday of the week to bring this to a proper and fair conclusion," said Hamister.

Hamister worked feverishly last week trying to secure needed government assistance to complete his package. But on Friday he was granted more time by the National Hockey League.

Hamister said this week there are two things that need to be completed before submitting his finance plan.

"One, we have to complete our definitive agreement and, secondly, we have to make a substantially amount of progress with regard to our government ask, said Hamister. I think the NHL is pleased with the progress we are making on both fronts, and based upon that, gave us our extension."

Hamister is looking for about 33 million dollars in state, county and city help to finance improvements and debt at HSBC Arena.

He said he needs almost 23 million dollars in the form of a state loan to refinance the arena debt.

He said that loan traces back to the Knox family, who owned the Sabres before the Rigases.

On Friday, Hamister denied reports that the governor rejected his request for the state loan, due to fears it would help payoff financially troubled Adelphia Communications.

If he is able to submit his financial package by the end of this week, he said it still will face new hurdles.

"This whole process is rather complex. It's long and among other things the NHL board of governors needs to approve final application and agreement, said Hamister. So, there is a lot of work to be done yet."

Hamister said part of putting together this type of deal needs on-going dialogue and negotiations with the government.

But, at this point, Hamister said he has not spoken directly to the governor, only Pataki staffers.