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The Globe and Mail

Chicago Wolves owner interested in Seattle franchise

If financier Chris Hansen succeeds in his plan to build an arena in Seattle and buy and NBA team, he will not have to look far for someone to bring along an NHL team as a second tenant.

Don Levin, who owns the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League, said Thursday he told Hansen he would be "very happy" to get involved as the owner of an NHL team in Seattle.

"If he's successful, I'd be very happy to be involved," Levin said. "I told [Hansen]if he has something put together I would be interested."

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Levin also said he has spoken to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in the past about owning an NHL team, although he said they have not discussed Seattle specifically. Nor have they discussed the financially ailing Phoenix Coyotes, the most obvious candidate to be moved to another city.

Bettman has said recently that Seattle is on the league's radar as a destination for an NHL team. The commissioner also said the city has to have definite plans for an arena before the NHL would commit to anything.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an e-mail message that, "We have had conversations with Don Levin over the period of the last several years about his potential interest in owning an NHL franchise. None of those discussions occurred recently [probably not within the last calendar year]and none have involved the Phoenix Coyotes."

Levin has more than enough wealth to become an NHL owner. He founded D.R.L. Enterprises in 1969, a Chicago-based company that has interests in a number of fields, including aircraft and medical equipment leasing, sports products and tobacco processing. The company has also produced about 20 motion pictures.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is expected to hold a press conference on Thursday afternoon to announce the details of Hansen's arena plans. Hansen told the Seattle Times he expects the $400-million (all currency U.S.) to be built with a combination of private money and the tax revenue generated by the arena.

Hansen, 44, is a Seattle native who is the head of Valiant Capital, a $3-billion investment fund based in San Francisco. He says he is a basketball fan who has wanted to do something for his hometown ever since Seattle SuperSonics owner Clay Bennett moved the NBA team to Oklahoma City in 2008 when he could not reach an agreement with the city about a new arena.

While Hansen plans to buy an NBA team if one becomes available and install it in the new arena, he told the Seattle Times an NHL team would have to be owned by someone else. When he was asked if an NHL team was necessary as a second tenant in order to make the new arena financially successful, Hansen declined to answer.

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The Sacramento Kings are the leading target for Hansen. The NBA gave the city of Sacramento a deadline of Mar. 1 to provide a plan for a new arena or the team could be moved.

However, it may necessary for two major teams to be involved because Seattle is bound to a 2006 bylaw passed by the voters that says any investment by the city in a sports arena must be profitable.

Hansen bought a parcel of land just south of Safeco Field, the home of Major League Baseball's Seattle Mariners, that would be used for the arena. He has been in talks with the city since June about building an arena.

Hansen told the Times he is "very close" to striking a deal with the city and King County.

Levin said he is not the only possible owner of an NHL team based in the Seattle area. He said someone, whom he did not identify, in nearby Bellevue, Wash., is also interested in buying a team and there may be a competing arena proposal in Seattle.

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