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Nelson Skalbania

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Nelson Skalbania (born February 12, 1938 in Vancouver, British Columbia) is a businessman. He was involved in many business ventures, the majority of them very colourful. What follows involves his pro hockey deals only.

Skalbania purchased the Edmonton Oilers of the WHA from Charles Allard in 1975. With debts in the range of $1.6 million during the next season, he took on Peter Pocklington as a partner. Pocklington gave Skalbania a vintage Rolls Royce Phaeton used in the film The Great Gatsby, a painting by Maurice Utrillo and a diamond ring worth about $150,000 that happened to be on his wife's finger. The swap was worth about $700,000, according to Pocklington, who also agreed to take on half of the team’s debt. Several months before Skalbania held talks with the National Hockey League about a possible merger with the WHA. After it became clear that no merger would happen by 1977, Skalbania had decided to sell his half of the Oilers to Pocklington.

He surfaced next with the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA, when be bought the club from Harold Ducote in 1977, after a dreadful season, and helped it avoid folding. Skalbania tried to revitialize the club in 1978 by signing Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds star Wayne Gretzky to a personal services contract. However, this ploy failed to put enough fans in the stands, and Gretzky was sold to Edmonton for $800,000. This helped the Racers for a while but the faithful knew the end was near as Skalbania conceded defeat, folding the Racers on December 15, 1978.

Skalbania had a short but very important tenure as leader of an ownership group that purchased the Atlanta Flames of the National Hockey League. He was instrumental in their move to Calgary.

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