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Published: Saturday, 4/2/2005

Soskin wants to save Storm

BY DAN SAEVIG
BLADE STAFF WRITER
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Barry Soskin brought professional hockey back to Toledo in 1991.

Fourteen years later, the Chicago businessman said he is willing to help make sure it stays, including once again owning the team - and possibly buying the Sports Arena - if the right deal can be struck.

Soskin said yesterday that he has had several discussions with Tim Gladieux over the past two to three weeks - the first conversation was initiated by Gladieux, according to Soskin - and that he will meet with the Storm and Sports Arena's majority owner next week on a yet-to-be determined day to discuss his possible re-involvement with the ECHL club.

"In a perfect world, lock, stock and barrel, " Soskin said when asked to what degree he would like to be involved. "At the very least, as a consultant. Anything between that would be acceptable. I don't know if that's obtainable; I don't know if that's feasible.

"At the very least, I would like to be involved in a consulting role to turn what was a profitable venture when I was involved, back into a profitable venture again. "

Wednesday, the Storm announced that it has requested approval from the ECHL to suspend operations for the 2005-06 season, citing a dwindling season-ticket base that now numbers approximately 750. That's half of what team officials say is needed to break even.

The league's board of governors will discuss Toledo's request in a conference call on April 12.

Soskin said that he is concerned about the tight timetable.

"We'll see what transpires,'' said Soskin, who in November, 1998, sold the Storm to Gladieux and a group of investors for more than $2 million. "I'm going in there without any blinders on. I just want to make sure that the end result is good for the Toledo Storm.

"This was all done originally because it was affordable family entertainment. We want to bring that back. I think that's what we need to do.''

Gladieux did not return messages yesterday seeking comment.

The Storm's popularity was at its highest when Soskin owned the club, which was the first pro hockey team in Toledo since the Goaldiggers ceased operations in 1986. The team won Riley Cup titles in 1993 and 1994 under then head coach Chris McSorley and average attendance in the now 58-year-old Sports Arena never dropped below 4,737.

The 2004-05 Storm is averaging 3,567 in the 5,330 seat East Toledo facility.

Soskin said that he is in the process of collecting information to determine the climate of the fan base and business community.

"I don't think it's any different than it was 10-15 years ago,'' Soskin said. "I want to see if I can help. It's something I still consider my baby.''

Soskin said that he has had discussions in the past two days with Pat Pylypuik, who played for Soskin's championship teams and was later promoted to Storm general manager by Soskin, about the Toledo situation.

"It's getting harder and harder to generate the revenues you need to make this work,'' Soskin said. "Can you make a $2.2 million budget work? I think it's going to be close, darn close.''

Just how close is Soskin to becoming involved again with the Storm?

"My heart tells me, give me 4 hours and 10 minutes and I'll be there,'' Soskin said. "But being realistic about everything that's out there, I'd hate to be a betting man. Maybe after two to three more calls and meeting with Tim."



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