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Toronto businessman purchases league's trademarks

TORONTO -- The fledgling World Hockey Association announced Monday an agreement has been reached to purchase its trademarks.

The sale is basically comprised of the WHA name and a few computers and desks from the Niagara Falls, Ontario, head office. The new group, led by Toronto businessman William Smith, is planning to operate offices in Toronto, New York and Boca Raton,
Fla.

The statement said Smith had been negotiating with WHA co-founder Nick Vaccaro for more than two weeks.

"Our plan is to quickly assemble our new team and decide if there is time to operate late in 2004 or early in 2005," Smith said. "The business model established by Dr. Vaccaro and his group is still sound."

The league appeared to be out of business before it even began play with the withdrawal two weeks ago of the Dallas Americans, co-owned by Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour.

The WHA, trying to make its comeback after first folding in 1979, was originally hoping to kick off a 60-game regular season Dec. 26 with teams in Dallas, Vancouver, Detroit, Halifax, Miami, Toronto and Hamilton.

But problems with securing arena leases in some cities and a lack of commitments from players gave some of the previous owners cold feet.

Another blow to the league was having junior hockey phenom Sidney Crosby reject a 3-year, $7.5 million offer from Hamilton in August.

The original WHA existed in the 1970s.