The Erie Otters filed for bankruptcy earlier this season, and there have been concerns the team cannot stay in western Pennsylvania. However, the Ontario Hockey League is the latest party to step forward in their hopes the team will remain in Erie.
According to GoErie.com:
"Whoever buys the Otters in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Erie must apply for membership in the 20-team OHL, which would rather the team not move under new ownership, the OHL said in a court filing."
“The League strongly prefers that Applicant commit to keeping the Team in Erie, Pennsylvania, and Applicant’s position on this issue will be a significant factor in the League’s approval analysis,” it says on the filing.
"U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas P. Agresti will have final approval of a sale of the team, which is scheduled to occur at a public auction in his courtroom at the federal courthouse in Erie at the end of June.Agresti wants the OHL to sign off on the bidders before the sale, so that the new owner will not have to wait on OHL approval after buying the team at auction. Agresti wants the new owner to take control of the team quickly to get ready for the upcoming season.To prepare for the auction, Agresti asked the OHL’s lawyers to file a report on the Toronto-based league’s approval process. The league’s comments about keeping the team in Erie are in the report, docketed Thursday by the OHL’s lawyers, including Larry Bolla, of Erie."
Despite the shortcomings off the ice, the Otters have been one of the more successful teams in the OHL in recent memory. They fell to the Oshawa Generals, but did advance to the OHL championship series. They also developed two of the top prospects for the upcoming NHL draft in Dylan Strome and Connor McDavid.
The OHL board of governors are able to decline the sale or deny the new owners of the team if it comes to that. This means the OHL could essentially just end up buying the Otters themselves no matter what if they so chose.
“An applicant’s willingness to maintain the Team in Erie, Pennsylvania, will be a significant factor considered by the League in deciding whether to approve the change in ownership and waive its right of first refusal,” the OHL said.
There have been some groups who have come forward to keep the team in Erie, and hopefully the league will step forward to keep the team there as well.
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