NHL’s Canadiens Bought by U.S. Businessman

From Associated Press

Uh-oh, Canada. An American is the new owner of the Montreal Canadiens.

George Gillett signed the papers Wednesday to become majority owner of the most storied team in professional hockey.

Now he must convince Canadians that he’s not their worst nightmare--an American owner who will take the NHL’s most successful franchise south of the border.

Gillett wore a Canadien tie and pin at the center-ice news conference Wednesday announcing the $183-million deal to buy an 80.1% stake from Molson Inc. and the Molson Centre arena where the team plays.


He then promised to return the “grandeur of this team” that has won 24 Stanley Cups and epitomized the French Canadian pride and flair in hockey.

“Our vision is to restore the franchise as the greatest team in hockey,” Gillett said, insisting that the agreement and the NHL served as significant safeguards against any possible move.

“We want to work with the fans and we want to work in harmony with the Montreal community,” he said.

That was the small dose of good news in a story many Canadians awaited with dread. While other Canadian-based franchises have moved to the U.S., the loss of the Canadiens would tear the social fabric of a nation that embraces hockey as the natural expression of its combination of grace, ruggedness and competitive spirit.

“The Canadiens will remain in Montreal,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “I could conceive of no condition under which a relocation of the franchise would even be considered.”

Canadian-based clubs pay higher local taxes than U.S.-based clubs, and players get paid in U.S. dollars, while revenue from ticket sales, broadcast rights and other sources comes in weaker Canadian dollars.


The City of Montreal provided a helping hand on Wednesday, cutting the $7.3-million annual local tax bill by more than $2.6 million.