Bills formally announce permanent move to Toronto
Workers start to take down theBills letters at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills are becoming the Toronto Wolfpack next season. Image Contributor
After former Buffalo Bills Owner and President Ralph Wilson, Jr. died Sunday from suspected foul play, daughter Christy Wilson Hoffman announced the sale of the NFL team to Ted Rogers, President and CEO of Rogers Communications. The terms of the sale were not disclosed.
The sale, approved by the National Football League, will move the Bills to Toronto, Ont., Ca. The team will begin the 2009 regular season in the Rogers Centre, with their two preseason games played in Buffalo.
"It's the least we could do for Buffalo fans," Rogers said. "They've earned the right to watch two more games in Orchard Park after this upcoming season."
In the sale, the Bills' naming rights, team logo, uniforms, and legacy will remain property of the City of Buffalo, leaving way for a possible expansion team to return in the future. A similar situation occurred in 1995, when the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens. The Browns returned to Cleveland as an expansion team in 1999.
In Toronto, the team will become the Toronto Wolf Pack, donning black, white, and red jerseys. Their logo is the head of an angry wolf with fierce red eyes.
"The Wolf Pack will bring a new era into the NFL, as well as Toronto sports," Rogers said. "The Pack will be everything the Bills wanted to be."
Plans are already being made for the Toronto move. Painters and other construction workers have begun removing all Bills logos from the outside faÃ§ade. The Bills Hall of Fame trophy case has also been dismantled.
Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly has said on several occasions that he would personally make sure the Bills would never leave Buffalo.
"I don't want to talk about it," Kelly said. "I am at a loss for words right now. I can't believe this."
The move, rumored for months, has upset football fans across the country. Milt Northrup, a sports reporter for The Buffalo News is also very unhappy with the move.
"The Bills were a staple of the community," Northrup said. "It's a shame, it really is. I've been here since 1862 and I've never been so ashamed of anyone or anything here in Buffalo."
Tom Golisano, owner of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, offered to purchase the team along with Rich Products owner Robert Rich, Jr. The duo offered more to keep the team in Buffalo, but the deal fell through.
"They knew exactly what they wanted to do from the start," Golisano said. "We never had a chance."
Rogers, on the other hand, feels that the deal was fair and square.
"I'm sorry that Toronto has more to offer than Buffalo," Rogers said. "If Mr. Golisano wants to see the team in action, he can be my personal guest at any or all of our Wolf Pack games."
Ticket prices are slated to start at $250, with the most expensive seats costing $1,600. Season tickets will go on sale next week.
Season ticket holders will receive a variety of perks, including a signed authentic Trent Edwards Wolf Pack jersey and a Wolf Pack medallion, symbolizing the beginning of the new era for the team. Individual seat numbers will be engraved on the medallion.
"I can't wait for this new adventure for myself and my athletes," said Head Coach Dick Jauron. "While Buffalo was great, we have high hopes for the city of Toronto and its fans."
The Wolf Pack will be the first team in the history of the NFL to call a stadium on international soil its home. The move was made after several attempts to gain an international audience for the sport, but it wasn't until Wilson's death that the wheels could be set in motion.
Dick Winters, a senior undecided major, had strong feelings on the sale.
"F*** them," Winters said. "All Canadians are good for is maple syrup, not football. What a crock of s***."
The Wolf Pack will play alongside Major League Baseball's Toronto Blue Jays, as well as the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts. While scheduling might be difficult, Rogers feels it is worth the challenge.
"I could care less about the bumps in the road ahead," Rogers said. "Now people will realize the City of Toronto and Canada are forces to be reckoned with."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, a native of Jamestown, looks forward to the promise coming from the deal.
"While the Bills were a fixture to the economy and life of Buffalo, Buffalonians will move on," Goodell said. "I look forward to working with Canadian fans in making the NFL as popular as the NHL."
In order to bolster the move, Goodell is pushing for Super Bowl XLVI to be held in Toronto.
"Having the Super Bowl played in such a grand city like Toronto will be beneficial for everyone," Goodell said. "It will help add to the fan base the NFL needs from its international friends."
The Bills were a member of the American Football League, where they began playing in 1960.They were AFL Champions in 1964 and 1965 before merging with the NFL in 1970.
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