CORNWALL, Ontario - A day after management with a Cornwall semi-pro hockey team said the club is folding, ownership now says the franchise is up for sale - and the clock is ticking.
Bernie Villeneuve, owner of the Cornwall River Kings, said during a rambling address at a Thursday press conference that he has been forced to sell the team by Sept. 10, or the Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey will sell it for him.
Wednesday River Kings operations manager Rick Lapierre told Seaway News the team is folding.
Villeneuve blamed the fact that he has been unable to strike a 50/50 advertising revenue agreement with the Cornwall Colts, a Jr. A team that plays out of the Cornwall Civic Complex along with the River Kings.
"I can't get in," said Villeneuve, who at times thundered at a group of about 20 people who congregated in front of city hall. "I can’t get a logo on the ice. I can't have rink advertising."
The Colts have exclusive rights to advertising revenue within the facility.
Last season the River Kings secured an agreement with the Colts that would allow for some advertising sharing, but it cost the team $100,000 – payable to the Jr. a franchise, said Villeneuve.
A similar agreement could not be found for this season, mainly because Villeneuve says his team can't afford it.
At this point he'd be "more than happy" to sell the team, especially if a new owner keeps the franchise in the Seaway City.
Villeneuve even went as far as giving out his cell number (613-551-3365) at the press conference.
"You can become the owner of the River Kings,'' he suggested. "I'm ready to give, I've been a giver my whole life.''
More on the ownership status could unfold over the next few days and into the weekend.
A rally is planned before Monday night's city council meeting, where the team is hoping to drum up support from its local fan base.
Villeneuve took several swipes at the city for what he feels is a lack of support for the team.
"We have been unable to come to terms with the city and other organizations this past summer," he said, adding the stress of trying to keep the team afloat has taken its toll. "I'm at a point in life where this is ruining my life.
"I've run out. I'm dry. This team does not run on nickels."
Mayor Bob Kilger told Seaway News the city has agreements with both teams and is honouring those agreements.
"I continue to hope the River Kings and Bernie Villeneuve will find a resolution to the outstanding issues that allow him to operate his franchise in Cornwall," said Kilger. "I can assure the residents of Cornwall and the fan base that the City of Cornwall…met all its obligations relative to both the Cornwall Colts and the Cornwall River Kings as tenants in the Cornwall Civic Complex.
"(But) the City of Cornwall is not in the hockey business."
Villeneuve has heard there may be a local buyer ready to step in and keep the team in Cornwall, though nothing official has been confirmed.
He also indicated the league is fielding expressions of interest in the team.