ERIE, Pa. - The Erie Otters filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday, a move owner Sherry Bassin insisted would not affect the Ontario Hockey League team's immediate future.
Bassin said Erie Hockey Club Limited filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a way to prevent Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz's Ontario Major Junior Hockey Corporation from holding its own private sale of the Otters and their assets. Bassin still plans to sell the team and pay off creditors, including Katz, but said filing was necessary to protect the organization.
"We're going to maintain normal operations," Bassin said at Erie Insurance Arena after his team finished practice. "It'll have absolutely no effect on our players, on our staff, on Otters playoff games, which I hope there are many."
The Otters open their second-round series at home Thursday against the London Knights. Bassin met with players and staff Wednesday morning to assure them the team wasn't going under and that nothing would change as far as day-to-day operations.
"I don't worry about it, and I know a lot of the guys aren't too worried about it," Otters captain Connor McDavid said. "We have a lot to look forward to here in Erie and with the playoffs and all that."
McDavid said this news could have come out at any time and it would not have been a distraction to the team. Bassin expects to complete the sale of the team in the next two or three months, by which time McDavid will be well on his way to the NHL.
Katz and Bassin are involved in court action that in part prompted the decision to file for bankruptcy. The Otters said in a statement that the team's creditors would all be paid off when a sale goes through, with payments to Katz's company put in escrow until litigation is finished.
Bassin said he has already been in contact with potential buyers, and the team's statement said the Otters are expected to sell at a value in line with other OHL franchises recently. Whenever a sale goes through, Bassin expects the team to remain in Erie.
"Oh yeah," Bassin said. "I think that if we do this properly and we get a chance, which is what we want to do, it'll be here for a long time."
An Oilers spokemsman declined comment because of the ongoing litigation.
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