The American Hockey League is moving closer to expansion, and Baltimore appears to be moving with it.
Yesterday, Gary Handleman, vice president of facilities for Centre Management, and Bob Teck, a prospective AHL franchise owner, said they are working toward an agreement on the use of the Baltimore Arena for a new AHL team that would begin play in the fall.
Teck and his partner, Alan Gertner, have been looking into a franchise in Baltimore since last October. They are business partners in the Gertec Corp., a Lakewood, N.J., architectural design company that, among other things, builds community ice arenas. Teck said they do not have plans to build an arena here.
"Through our talks with [Centre Management], we realize that a deal has to make sense to them," said Teck. "We know their problems. We know we're not going to get good dates. Both sides are in the throes of hoping we'll come to some kind of an agreement that works for both sides."
Handleman said he hopes to have a response to Teck's latest proposalby Monday and added, "Even if we don't fully accept what's here, we will continue to work hard toward finding a
The movement toward restoring an AHL franchise here comes at a time when AHL commissioner Dave Andrews sees an opportunity to bring former NHL affiliations back to his league and acquire new ones because of recent NHL expansion.
"We need new sites with good buildings," said Andrews. "Baltimore is a good site, within our current geographic mix, and I know they're working hard to get it done. We're also prepared to go outside our current area. But nothing we're considering would interfere with putting a team in Baltimore."
A report in the Providence Journal said NHL owners are urging the AHL owners, whose teams are directly affiliated, to expand their league so that quality players won't be available to the International Hockey League, which has been stepping on the NHL's toes in cities such as Detroit and Chicago, where both the IHL and NHL have teams.
The Virginian Pilot of Norfolk, Va., reported Wednesday that NHL officials have suggested the complete restructuring of the AHL in order to cripple the IHL, suggesting the AHL acquire five franchises from the IHL -- Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Ind., Kalamazoo, Mich., Peoria, Ill., and Cleveland -- as the basis of a Midwest Division of the AHL.
NHL spokesman Andy McGowan said yesterday, "There is no such NHL proposal." Asked if the league is planning to sever relations with the IHL, which has 10 NHL farm clubs, or is irritated by the IHL's planned expansion into other current or future NHL market areas, McGowan said the league "has no comment."
Andrews said "a number of things" relating to AHL expansion could be resolved within the next 10 days and added that negotiations for any new franchises that hope to be in operation for the 1995-96 season will have to be finalized by June 6.
Teck said he and Gertner feel everything has to be done much sooner than that.
"Our deadline is April 15," said Teck. "I'm operating with the optimistic outlook that we can have everything done by then. After all the research I've done in Baltimore and the surrounding counties, I can't imagine a franchise not being successful there if the product is right and it is marketed right."