ALSO ON SLAM!
Thursday, August 10, 2000
ThunderHawks buy Montreal Impact indoor teamTORONTO (CP) -- The fledgling Toronto ThunderHawks have bought the Montreal Impact indoor soccer team, instantly stocking their roster while raising some intriguing questions about competing National Professional Soccer League clubs sharing ownership.
The sale agreement, expected to close within a week, does not include the Impact's outdoor team, which competes in the A-League.
Montreal will not field a team this season, partly because of the questions that arise out of the shared ownership. And by having Montreal sit out, the expansion ThunderHawks benefit because they have immediate access to Impact veterans such as Giuliano Oliviero (48 goals, 143 points last season), Mauro Biello (46 goals, 122 points) and goalkeeper Paolo Ceccarelli (12.58 points-against average).
Such top Canadian talent is invaluable considering NPSL teams are limited to six imports.
With Toronto and Montreal under the same ownership umbrella, it could add spice to playoff races -- not to mention trade and other league strategies.
"Those are very good questions and they're questions that need to be reviewed by the league," team president Neil Jamieson, who leads a ThunderHawks ownership group that includes NHL veteran Paul Coffey, acknowledged Thursday.
"I believe there are appropriate safety nets to ensure that there isn't any co-mingling of players and budgets and any of those things that are untoward."
Jamieson said the Toronto and Montreal franchises will be separate, although there will be some shared ventures in marketing and player development.
Keith Tozer, head coach and vice-president of team operations of the NPSL champion Milwaukee Wave, didn't seem fazed by the concept of shared ownership.
"The only thing it tells me is that Neil has money," he said from Milwaukee.
"I have no concerns about it," he added. "I'd rather see someone with Neil's background, his wherewithal and everything own two franchises than have someone who doesn't have the wherewithal own a franchise."
Toronto head coach Gary Hindley, whose appointment was confirmed Thursday, doesn't see a problem either.
Most recently the New Jersey native was coach of the Mississippi Beach Kings of the Eastern Indoor Soccer League. That franchise also owned teams in Lafayette and Baton Rouge and all three ended up vying for the playoffs.
Some of the other owners feared collusion, Hindley said, but their concerns were unfounded.
"Players and coaches are too competitive really for that to happen," he said.
The ThunderHawks are scheduled to kick off Oct. 20 at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont. They will play 17 games there with plans to hold one game at Hamilton's Copps Coliseum and two at the Air Canada Centre.
The ThunderHawks are owned by Jamieson, Coffey and a local businessman, who wishes to remain anonymous. The team is on the verge of announcing a corporate partner.
That partner has "substantive media properties," according to Jamieson, that should facilitate a TV deal.
Jamieson, 42, is president and CEO of Scocan RSA Ltd., a family investment holding company that controls an automotive group which makes moulds for headlights and indicator lenses, a charter airline called Sport Hawk International that transports pro sports teams, the ThunderHawks and a company that manages sports facilities ranging from indoor soccer to golf and tennis.
He owns 51 per cent of the company, while a family trust owns the rest.
Thursday's news conference was held at City Place Golf Club, a newly opened par-3, nine-hole course in the shadow of SkyDome that is managed by Jamieson's company.
Sport Hawk looks after 20 teams: 10 NHL, eight major league baseball and the NBA's Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls.
Other teams that SportHawk service include the Toronto Maple Leafs, Blue Jays and Montreal Expos.
That means the ThunderHawks will travel first-class -- in one of four 727 jets that have been turned into 66-seat luxury planes.
"It's like a little hotel," Jamieson said.
Toronto had a one-year fling with indoor soccer in 1996-97 with the Shooting Stars. But the club's ownership collapsed three games into the season and the league was forced to take over the team.
The Shooting Stars, who played before a handful of fans in Maple Leaf Gardens, finished the season at 6-34 and promptly folded.
Unlike the ThunderHawks, the Stars travelled on the cheap. They made their first road trip, to St. Louis, by van.
Jamieson said he would like to return the Montreal team to the Molson Centre, which is currently up for sale. The team, which moved to the smaller Claude Robillard Centre, will also likely change its name.
"I think we're in a position to be an attractive tenant to a new owner," he said of moving back to the Molson Centre.
The other Canadian entry in the 12-team NPSL is the Edmonton Drillers.