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Hockey deal looks optimistic; fans await word

By REGGIE HAYES

Of The News-Sentinel

It may be another week before the first step toward returning an International 'Hockey League team to Fort Wayne becomes official

Although most parties involved say a deal is almost set, details of an agreement to sell the Flint Spirits have not yet been finalized. Fort Wayne native Stephen Franke, president of Midwest Quality Gloves Inc.,

in Chillicothe, Mo., is the head of a group seeking to purchase the Spirits and move the franchise to Fort Wayne. The team would replace David Welker‘s franchise which moved to Albany, N.Y.

Flint Spirits President Harold Mallon said he expected the Franke group to make an announcement today, but Franke was unavailable for comment and no news conference has been confirmed.

Former Flint General Manager Don Waddell said, “From what I understand, the deal’s worked out, but it could be another Week before it’s all put together.” Earlier this week, Franke met with two members of the Memorial Coliseum board to discuss a lease for the incoming franchise. Both sides apparently agreed in principle to a lease.

IHL Commissioner Thomas Berry said he expects the deal to be consummated.

The potential purchasers and the coliseum apparently came to an accord a couple days ago," Berry said. “Unless something goes terribly awry at this point, everybody seems to be happy that I've talked to. They seem to have an agreement and are ready to make an announcement.”

Once Franke’s group has purchased the Flint franchise, the move to Fort Wayne must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the IHL’s Board of Governors. Beny expects a speedy approval once the vote is taken.

As soon as I get the OK, we’ll make the conference call,” he said. The IHL board “has talked about it before and it’s something we would do. We want to keep Fort Wavne in the league."

Meanwhile, the coliseum is working to sever remaining ties with Welker. Welker and coliseum officials must jointly sign off the remaining two years of his lease.

We’re waiting to hear from Welker," said Coliseum General Manager Phil Olofson. “We have to both sign off to make the agreement null and void.’’.