Markham arena developer’s “NHL connections” turn out not to involve connections to NHL


Remember when two city councillors in Markham, Ontario were calling for an investigation of would-be NHL team owner Graeme Roustan, on the grounds that he hadn’t revealed his personal finances, has previously been found guilty of statutory fraud in an arena case in Texas, and lied about being a finalist to buy the Montreal Canadiens? And remember how the Markham council just went ahead and voted to give Roustan $162.5 million to help build a new arena anyway? Well now the NHL is getting into the game, asserting that — surprise, surprise — Roustan and Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti lied about Roustan being a finalist to buy the Canadiens, as well as that he had the right connections to get an NHL team:

Minutes of a private council meeting show councillors saw documents of a “confidential nature” and other reports, including one from Mayor Frank Scarpitti, two months ago that upheld the business integrity of promoter Graeme Roustan.

The minutes, obtained by the Star, also say Roustan was a finalist in bidding for the Montreal Canadiens in 2009 and someone with the right connections to secure a franchise for the 20,000-seat arena project…

Frank Brown, group vice-president of media relations for the NHL, said the league and Bettman have never endorsed Roustan as a franchise owner or indicated any positive view about a second NHL club in the Toronto area market.

“In summary, insofar as these minutes refer to the league and to the commissioner, we do not believe they are accurate,” said Brown.

This isn’t all that big a surprise, since it looks like the Toronto Star obtained the minutes, asked the NHL, “Hey, did you say this guy could get an NHL team?” and the league replied, “Hell, no, Markham is still Maple Leafs territory until we say otherwise.” Still, given that the minutes indicate that Roustan wasn’t actually promising any financial backing for the arena, and that his main role was to “provide the connection with the NHL and bring a team to Markham,” the fact that he doesn’t actually have any connections to bring an NHL team to Markham would seem to be a wee omission.

There’s still no actual construction agreement for the Markham arena, and no word from the council on how negotiations are going. Two councillors complained earlier this year about all the arena meetings taking place in closed sessions; you’d think city councils would learn their lessons eventually about private meetings, but apparently not.

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