National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman, left, appears at a press conference with Nashville Predators owner Craig Leipold. (AP File \'02/Mark Humphrey)
Gerry Helper, vice-president of communications for the Predators, confirmed that Leipold and members of the local group were meeting in New York with the commissioner.
"Craig is trying to afford the local group every opportunity to put an offer in place. Beyond that, it's not appropriate to comment further," Helper said.
Helper would not comment when asked if the meeting was Bettman's introduction to the group of businessmen or a session that could produce a letter of intent. The group is trying to counter offers from Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie and California businessman William (Boots) Del Biaggio for the team.
"Obviously a local bid is a positive for both the league and the city of Nashville," Balsillie's lawyer Richard Rodier told The Canadian Press on Wednesday. "The comissioner is on record as being in favour of franchise stability in their currrent locations. And it's perfectly understandable.
"However, if the local bid is not successful, we remain optimistic that our bid is better in every way than any of the other bids out there."
Balsillie's bid of US$220 million has stalled since a letter of intent signed in May, and Del Biaggio offered $190 million. He has an agreement with the Sprint Center to own any NHL team that relocates to Kansas City.
Herb Fritch, chief executive officer of HealthSpring Inc. in Nashville and one of the leaders of the local group, did not immediately return a telephone message Wednesday morning. A lawyer working with the Nashville businessmen in their bid declined to comment when reached e-mail.
The local group, which includes 36 Venture Capital CEO David Freeman, submitted a bid for the Predators in early July but hasn't said how much it has bid in an attempt to try to keep the team in Nashville.