Tom Hanson: Unlike players, Blades franchise won't change

Ding, dong, the deal is dead.

The Florida Everblades and their home, Germain Arena, aren't changing ownership.

In a season where the Everblades' roster has changed more than Cher at one of her concerts, the management — dressed in the same old good-luck yellow ties — is going to remain the same.

The team's owner, Peter Karmanos Jr., and his group, KTB Sports, Inc., which includes general manager Craig Brush, aren't going anywhere.

"Certainly at this point in time, it is not (for sale)," said Jim Rutherford, general manager for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes, who are owned by Karmanos, on Tuesday.

In January, Naples Daily News staff writer Andy Kent broke the news of the potential sale of the Everblades and Germain Arena. Then it became the hottest item, besides the weather, of the summer.

During the Kelly Cup playoffs, it looked like a foregone conclusion that there would be new owners to start the 2005-06 season. Everyone who has eaten at the concession stands could only wish and wait.

Karmanos apparently wanted to sell the Everblades, the building and possibly a junior hockey team in Plymouth, N.Y., to free up a little cash.

He's reportedly lost $135 million since moving the Hurricanes to North Carolina from Hartford, Conn. The NHL lockout, which had professional hockey's elite players out of work for a year, contributed to Karmanos' financial woes.

Then the NHL ended its labor disagreement. Karmanos' cash flow obviously picked up and the deal to the Brooks Brothers, James and Robert, who own the ECHL's Wheeler Nailers, is now off the table.

Rutherford doesn't think the NHL coming back to work — once again filling Karmanos' pockets — is the reason behind the "For Sale" sign being taken down.

"I don't think (the NHL coming back) has anything to do with it." Rutherford said. "I think it is more of he's decided that he's not selling it."

Rutherford wouldn't comment on how close the sale had come to being completed. The Brooks brothers, who had signed a letter of intent and exclusivity agreement to buy the team, didn't return phone calls made to them on Tuesday.

Brush confirmed that the deal "isn't going to happen."

Now, he can concentrate on how to continue to fill the roster.

Everblades players are being shipped back and forth between Florida and AHL affiliates Rochester and Lowell, making Everblades the No. 3 import/ export in Southwest Florida behind snowbirds and sunshine.

With affiliations with Carolina and the Florida Panthers this season, the Everblades have turned into a genuine feeder system. Since the start of the season last month, nine players have been called up.

Even now, as the Hurricanes' owners continue their reign, the shuffling rosters is hard on the stability of the Everblades franchise. But that's developmental hockey.

"It's difficult," Rutherford said.

"You would like to see stability and the Everblades put their team together; Craig puts his team together, and that's the team he likes to have on the ice, but it doesn't always work that way."

The busiest man on the Everblades payroll may just be John Jennings, the team's equipment manager. With so many players coming in and out, he's had to change the name on more than a few jerseys.

Jennings, by the way, isn't using Velcro. He's sewing them on the old-fashioned way.

"Luckily, I don't have to pay him by the letter," Brush joked.

Brush is also happy to know that he's still signing Jennings' and all of the other Everblades' paychecks.

E-mail staff writer Tom Hanson at tahanson@naplesnews.com

© 2005 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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