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Whalers to Land in Raleigh as Carolina Hurricanes

May 07, 1997|From Associated Press

The NHL broke into new territory Tuesday, with the Hartford Whalers moving to North Carolina and taking the name Carolina Hurricanes.

Although there is a remote chance the deal could fall through because of political obstacles in Connecticut, the Hurricanes are expected to begin play in Raleigh's new $120-million arena by the 1999-2000 season.

"This isn't a new phenomenon," team owner Peter Karmanos said. "This isn't some kind of new-age owners' greed thing. This is the economic facts of life, and they have been going on in sport for a long, long time."

Karmanos said it's still unclear whether the team would move to a temporary home in the 21,500-seat Greensboro Coliseum this year or next season before going to Raleigh.

The Hurricanes will join the NBA Charlotte Hornets and NFL Carolina Panthers--recent expansion teams--in the booming sports state.

"It's going to do great things for this area," North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt said. "It puts us on the map. It gives us a whole new dimension in the area of sports."

Karmanos, who purchased the Whalers in 1994 for $47.5 million, lost a reported $15 million on the team last year. His search for a new site began more than a month ago. The search was narrowed to Raleigh and Columbus, Ohio, before the North Carolina capital emerged the clear favorite a week ago.

The Hurricanes' immediate future hinges on Connecticut politics. The Connecticut Development Authority plans to vote on a $20.5-million exit agreement by the end of the week, Gov. John Rowland said Tuesday.

House Speaker Tom Ritter has been crusading to get the fee doubled, but Rowland said he was confident the negotiated amount would be approved.

Earlier Tuesday, the Centennial Authority, which oversees Raleigh's new arena, voted 11-1 on a memorandum of understanding with the NHL team over lease terms.

The agreement calls for a 20-year lease, with two five-year options.

*

The Phoenix Coyotes, who struggled through their first season in Arizona, fired Coach Don Hay and assistant Paul MacLean on Tuesday.

Zinetula Bilyaletdinov was offered another job with the club.

The moves came one week after Phoenix was eliminated in the first round of the NHL playoffs by the Mighty Ducks.

"This was my decision," Coyote General Manager Bobby Smith said. "I just felt that if this team is going to be as good as we can be . . . we need a different coaching staff."

Hay, 42, was signed to a three-year contract July 1 by the former Winnipeg Jets.

At 38-37-7, the franchise had its best regular-season record since 1992-93.

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