BUFFALO, N.Y. - The NHL's board of governors is voting on the sale of the Buffalo Sabres to Terry Pegula, putting the Pennsylvania billionaire in a position to have control of the franchise by next week.
Without providing an exact timeline, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday that "everything's on schedule," and that he expects the sale to be completed "rather soon."
A person familiar with the sale process told The Associated Press that the league's approval could come as early as Friday, and that Pegula would then close on the US$189 million transaction by Tuesday or Wednesday.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the NHL has not announced an official timetable.
Bettman declined to provide a deadline on when the board of governors' vote would be completed, but is confident the transaction will be approved. He said the governors are voting by fax, which is allowed under league bylaws because their next meeting is not scheduled until June.
"It's probably going to happen rather soon since it carries the recommendation of the executive committee," Bettman said. "Nobody in Buffalo needs to worry about the future of this franchise. It will be in good hands as it has been."
Bettman spoke during a telephone conference call promoting USA Hockey's hockey weekend across America.
Outgoing Sabres owner Tom Golisano agreed to sell the franchise to Pegula—pending league approval—earlier this month, ending about three months of negotiations.
Pegula has ties to western New York as his wife, Kim, is from Rochester, and they previously lived in Orchard Park, a Buffalo suburb, and Olean, a 90-minute drive south of the city. As part of the deal, Pegula has committed to keeping the franchise in Buffalo.
He is the founder and former president of the energy company East Resources Inc., a major player in Pennsylvania's burgeoning natural gas industry that was sold to Royal Dutch Shell PLC for $4.7 billion last year.
Pegula has declined comment until the sale is completed. He has been described as a fan of the team and also has a deep interest in hockey.
In September, the Pegulas made the largest private gift in Penn State history, donating $88 million to fund a new multipurpose arena and help upgrade the men's hockey program. The Nittany Lions will make the move to Division I hockey in the 2012-13 season.
Pegula, 59, is a Penn State graduate and has an estimated worth of $3 billion. He was most recently ranked 110th on Forbes magazine's list of wealthiest Americans.
Bettman noted that Pegula has been a longtime Sabres season-ticket holder and had approached Golisano on several occasions to buy the franchise before last fall.
Bettman also praised Golisano and minority owner Larry Quinn for purchasing the Sabres out of bankruptcy in 2003 to prevent the team from folding or relocating.
"Tom Golisano and Larry Quinn did a terrific job of redeveloping and re-establishing the franchise coming out of an extremely difficult time," Bettman said. "So this will be another step in the franchise's future stability, not that it was ever unstable."
The sale should be completed in time for Pegula to oversee the Sabres plans in leading up to the NHL trading deadline on Feb. 28. Pegula has already played a role in those plans. In announcing the sale, Golisano said he and Pegula agreed on a short list of players who wouldn't be traded.
After a slow start to the season, the Sabres have rallied back into the playoff picture by going 13-5-2 in their past 20 games following a 2-1 loss to Toronto on Wednesday. Buffalo is ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, two points behind Carolina, which holds the eighth and final playoff spot with a little under two months left in the season.
Pegula also will have to determine whether to retain general manager Darcy Regier, who signed a two-year contract extension earlier this season, and whether to re-sign coach Lindy Ruff, who is in the final year of his contract.
Ruff has maintained he wants to stay, though he did not accept a contract extension offered to him last fall. He is the NHL's only coach to win 500 games with the same team.