The owner of the National Hockey League club placed a full-page ad in a local newspaper on Saturday to explain his reaction to ongoing negotiations with the city over a new arena.
While he did not specifically mention a trip early this week to Seattle, where he met with unspecified officials about the possibility of relocating the club, the letter is thought to be a reaction to outrage from fans and residents as a result.
“To the people of Edmonton, Northern Alberta and Oilers Fans Everywhere,” it began, going on to say Katz was “upset that certain confidential information was leaked and by comments that I thought were unfair and called my integrity into question. I reacted by trying to send a message to City leaders that they should not take my support for a new arena for granted.
“I took for granted your support and your love of the Oilers. That was wrong, and I apologize.”
Katz took Patrick LaForge, the Oilers’ president, plus executives Craig MacTavish and Kevin Lowe to Seattle, where they met former Edmonton superstar Wayne Gretzky in what was portrayed by many fans and much of the media as a thinly veiled attempt to force a better deal for his company in arena negotiations back home.
The Oilers and the City of Edmonton had agreed on plans for a proposed $475-million cost-shared arena that would begin construction early next year.
But the arena and the Oilers' future in the city were thrown into doubt earlier this month when the team told councilors it wanted millions of dollars in new concessions from taxpayers.
It was information leaking out of recent meetings with the city that Katz said he was upset about, though in the Saturday letter he indicated his focus was on getting a new arena deal.
“The simple fact is that the Oilers need Edmonton, and Edmonton needs the Oilers,” he wrote. “Each is an integral part of the fabric and identity of the other. We are continuing to work with City Administration to forge a win-win partnership that will beneﬁt our city and that we can all be proud of. “I hope we can count on your support.”
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