IHL’s Atlanta Knights to Move to Quebec
ATLANTA (AP) _ The Atlanta Knights will move to Quebec City with the approval of the International Hockey League, the team announced today.
The relocation was unavoidable because of the ``unstable nature of the situation regarding an arena for the Knights to play home games in Atlanta beyond the ’96-97 season,″ Richard Adler, the Knights’ president and co-owner, said in a statement.
``We received no commitment by our announced deadline that the Omni or another suitable facility would be available to us,″ he said.
Adler said he planned to make a formal announcement later today at a news conference in Quebec City.
Adler had set a deadline of today for the city to make progress on the arena situation or risk losing the team.
Mayor Bill Campbell’s chief of staff, Steven Labovitz, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
Adler and Knights chief executive officer David Berkman already are majority owners of an IHL expansion franchise approved for Quebec.
The Knights, Turner Cup champions two years ago, will have no place to play in Atlanta if the Omni is torn down, as proposed, to build a new arena for the NBA’s Hawks. No decision has been made on whether to build the arena on the current Omni site or next door.
The team averaged more than 7,200 fans during the 1995-96 season, a drop of nearly 18 percent from the previous year, when NHL players were locked out in a labor dispute.
Today’s announcement marks the second time Atlanta has lost a professional hockey team to Canada. The NHL’s Flames, who played here for eight years, moved to Calgary in 1980 after the team was sold to Canadian businessmen.