BUFFALO Hamister given time to buy Sabres

The fate of the Buffalo franchise staying in town rests with the governor.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Mark Hamister received a one-week extension from the NHL on Friday and political support for an estimated $30 million state assistance package to buy the financially troubled Buffalo Sabres.
The fate of the franchise staying in Buffalo now hinges on whether Gov. George Pataki approves the assistance package currently being drafted by the Empire State Development Corporation, a state economic development agency.
Pataki's decision could come as soon as Wednesday, when the governor is scheduled to make his annual state of the state address.
Bid is contigent
Hamister, whose purchase bid is contingent on government financial support, was hopeful even though he and majority partner Todd Berman initially asked the NHL for a two-week extension to get their financing in place.
"I'm an optimist. I think the week just means I'm not going to have Sunday off this weekend," said Hamister, a Buffalo businessman. "I'd say after the events today, we're much closer to getting it done."
While the NHL gave conditional approval to Hamister and Berman to buy the Sabres last November, their 45-day exclusive-rights period was to run out Friday.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman did not explain why only a one-week extension was granted, saying only that, "We look forward to continuing to work with them in completing the sale."
Bettman has previously stated that the Sabres probably would fold or move at the end of this season if Hamister and Berman fail in their bid to purchase the team, which the league has been operating since last June.
Gets big boost
Hamister's bid was significantly bolstered earlier in the day when members of the western New York state political delegation unanimously pledged to urge their respective party leaders to back the assistance package.
"We were all impressed, in fact so impressed that we decided to recommend that the package be accepted and the governor deal with this as soon as possible," Assembly Majority Leader Paul Tokasz said.
Sen. Dale Volker, who has close ties to the governor and is the region's senior politician, referred to it as an "enormous" step forward.
"If [Hamister] has any chance of doing this, today made it possible," Volker said, referring to the thoroughness of Hamister's presentation during a two-hour meeting.
"He blew away the fog, and hopefully the naysayers were kind of blown out," Volker added.
Critical in getting the politicians on board was Hamister's explanation that he is not seeking public money to help purchase the team.
Asks for state help
Instead, Hamister asked for the state to refinance a $22.9 million loan on the construction of HSBC Arena, the Sabres' home, and $10 million in capital improvements to the six-year-old facility.
He also stressed that no public funds would go toward the reported $70 million purchase of the franchise.
Politicians had previously expressed concerns over using public money to assist a sports team in a difficult economic climate. New York state faces an estimated $10 billion budget gap over the next 18 months.

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