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Danny Williams says Newfoundland government did not properly assess AHL subsidy

NHL.com @NHL

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Former premier Danny Williams says he believes the Newfoundland and Labrador government did not properly evaluate a subsidy request that could have helped bring an American Hockey League team to St. John's.

In his first public comments on the matter, Williams said he was "deeply disappointed" after he learned that the government he once led rejected the request to provide an annual subsidy for an AHL team.

"The province, as I understand it, within 24 hours just shut this down, so there was no proper due diligence," Williams said Friday.

"But I was told from the start not to expect a favourable decision from the premier."

Williams, who supports the bid to bring the Manitoba Moose to Newfoundland's capital city, declined to say who told him that.

He said the government's approval should have been a "no-brainer" because a professional hockey franchise would have reaped numerous economic spinoffs.

"I'm told by the American Hockey League that this is the last shot, we will never get another chance," Williams said.

"I can take a horse to water but I can't make her drink."

Conflict-of-interest regulations prevent the former Conservative premier from directly discussing the subsidy request with his successor, Premier Kathy Dunderdale, something he said also disappointed him.

"I'm not in the position to be able to goad her on that, which is unfortunate, but that's the way it is," he said.

"If there's actually a rift, it's unfortunate. I've done everything I can for that party."

Dunderdale said the government is normally opposed to providing public funds for a professional sports team.

"Ordinarily, this is not a place where we go," she said. "Our focus is very much on amateur sports."

She said the government could not adequately analyze the subsidy request based on the "scant amount of information" provided by St. John's Sports and Entertainment that included a letter of request, letters of support and a survey.

"Demonstrate it. Give us a business plan and show us that," she said.

She added that there was nothing personal behind her government's decision.

"Mr. Williams clearly has issues. I don't."

On Wednesday, the province's tourism minister said the time was not right to make a financial commitment to such a venture.

Williams quit politics in December.

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