Group has deal in place to purchase Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. -- A group led by former Florida Panthers coach
Doug MacLean has agreed to buy the Tampa Bay Lightning and says it
has no plans to move the franchise that won its only Stanley Cup
three years ago.

"Absolute zero thought of that," MacLean said at a news
conference following the surprise sale by Palace Sports and
Entertainment, a group led by Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson.

"Typically, you come into a situation where ownership has been
an issue," MacLean said. "We're following a great ownership group
that took the Tampa Bay franchise and really put it on the map."

Davidson bought the Lightning in 1999 and helped transform the
club from a perennial last-place team struggling to sell tickets
into a franchise that won the Stanley Cup in 2004 and has made the
playoffs the past four seasons.

The one thing Davidson couldn't do, though, was make the
Lightning profitable.

Team officials have said the club has lost more than $70 million
under current ownership and that the only season the club made
money was during its championship run.

MacLean, fired in April as the Columbus Blue Jackets' president
and general manager, declined to discuss the purchase price, saying
the sale is still subject to approval by the NHL's board of

The sale caught many off-guard.

Although current Lightning chairman and governor Tom Wilson said
talks with MacLean's Absolute Hockey Enterprises had been ongoing
for about six weeks, the team was never formally placed on the

"We really weren't [for sale]," said Wilson, who added
Davidson had always vowed that when he sold the team it would be to
"the right people."

"Passionate hockey people, people with Florida roots so we can
have local ownership," Wilson said.

The purchase agreement includes the leasing rights to the St.
Pete Times Forum and about 5.5 acres adjacent to the downtown

The former Panthers coach was joined at Tuesday's press
conference by fellow investors Jeff Sherrin, a Coral Springs real
estate developer, and Oren Koules, a Los Angeles TV and movie
producer who once played minor-league hockey.

All three said they plan to move to the Tampa Bay area. In all,
there will be about nine or 10 principal owners.

"This is something we're taking very seriously," Koules said.
"This isn't a toy for us. This is our job. This is going to be
what we do."