Bettman to try to settle drama; Pens owners eye Vegas

Updated: March 7, 2007, 9:49 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reportedly will try to settle the Penguins' possible relocation drama on Thursday in Philadelphia.

The Sports Network of Canada reported that Bettman will meet with the Penguins and representatives of Pittsburgh. TSN reported that the meeting is considered key to the future of the Penguins remaining in Pittsburgh despite owner Ron Burkle traveling to Las Vegas on Wednesday to meet with the mayor and discuss the possibility of relocating the team there.

Burnside: NHL in precarious spot
 Scott Burnside
The path being charted by the Penguins suddenly puts NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, or the league as a whole, in a potentially ugly pickle, writes Scott Burnside. Story

An unnamed source told TSN that the meeting likely will bring ''closure, one way or another.''

Burkle, who lives in Los Angeles, led a delegation in talks with Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman, according to Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan.

Meanwhile, Burkle and co-owner Mario Lemieux all prepared to meet with state, county and local officials on Thursday in Philadelphia to try to resolve differences over plans for a new arena in Pittsburgh.

Elena Owens, a spokeswoman for Goodman, confirmed the meeting with Penguins officials and said, "they had a very pleasant conversation." She declined to elaborate.

The Penguins issued a letter Monday saying the team planned to actively pursue relocation. It blamed government officials for failing to reach a deal to build a new arena in Pittsburgh.

In the letter, Lemieux and Burkle said negotiations had stalled, even though the team agreed to pay $120 million over 30 years toward a new $290 million arena and to cover any cost overruns.

Gov. Ed Rendell said Wednesday he was optimistic the team would remain in Pittsburgh. A day earlier, Rendell's office said the governor has put "an exceptionally attractive offer on the table." He later said officials would ask the NHL to intervene if the team didn't accept the deal.

Officials in Kansas City have offered the Penguins free rent and half of all revenues if they agree to play in the soon-to-be-completed $262 million Sprint Center.

The Penguins' lease at 46-year-old Mellon Arena, the oldest facility in the league, expires June 30. The Penguins have repeatedly said they may move, or sell the team to a buyer who would relocate the franchise if an arena deal isn't in place by then.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

ALSO SEE