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Privateers’ sale put on ice

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WATERTOWN — A group of investors will wait until after the Federal Hockey League playoffs before proceeding with plans to take over the fledgling Watertown Privateers.

Local businessman Stanley H. Tibbles said Friday that the investors decided to hold off until the Privateers’ season is over before going forward with the possible deal. The group plans to meet this week to discuss a counterproposal, he said.

The investors will know more following their meeting, he said.

“We’re still talking, still negotiating,” he said.

They are trying to work out a deal with the Privateers’ owners Don Kirnan and his daughter, Nicole J., who brought the Privateers to Watertown last year after the franchise played in Alexandria Bay for two seasons.

Mr. Kirnan, who lives in the Syracuse area and is the league’s commissioner, said Friday that league officials still must ascertain whether the investors meet financial requirements for team ownership in the league.

He remains optimistic about selling the lower-level hockey team to the group, however.

“I think it’s still something we can do,” he said.

The Privateers ended their 56-game regular season Friday night and will play their playoff games on opponents’ home ice. The playoffs end in mid-April.

Last month, Mr. Tibbles said the team was losing $40,000 to $50,000 this season.

On Friday, Parks and Recreation Superintendent Erin E. Gardner said the city is putting together bid specifications for a franchise agreement for a team to play at the city-owned ice rink.

The city plans to put it out to bid to see what kind of interest could be generated. Mrs. Gardner will meet soon with City Manager Sharon A. Addison and city Purchasing Manager Amy M. Pastuf to discuss what should be in the bid specs, she said.

The city also is being courted by a Palm Bay, Fla., man who would like the investors to start a new team in Watertown and join his new league, the North Atlantic Professional Hockey League.

In recent months, there has been some doubt as to whether the Privateers or the four-team league can survive for another season.

But Mr. Kirnan said the league has commitments from three cities other than Watertown to play in the league next season and the prospects of four more joining. Two other cities — Winston-Salem, N.C., and Connellsville, Pa., — appear to be good bets to join the league, he said.

Groups in New Hampshire and on Long Island also have expressed interest in establishing teams in the league, Mr. Kirnan said.

On Friday night, Danbury Whalers Coach Philip P. Esposito Jr., 43, of East Haven, Conn., was not allowed to join his team on the bench as a result of his arrest following a Jan. 1 game against Watertown.

Mr. Esposito asked the city if he could coach his team Friday night, Mrs. Gardner said. His request was denied, she said.

Mr. Esposito was arrested on two counts of harassment and endangering the welfare of a child after allegedly pushing a Watertown woman and her 7-year-old daughter following the Jan. 1 game.

His case has been adjourned in Watertown City Court until April 14.

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