LANSING, Mich. -- A state board on Wednesday unanimously gave the go-ahead for a new Red Wings hockey arena in downtown Detroit to be paid for in part with $284 million in tax dollars even as the broke city works through bankruptcy proceedings.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and others defended against criticism that the $650 million project should be financed entirely with private money because the city currently can't provide basic services and retirees are facing cuts in their pensions. The 18,000-seat arena is designed to be a catalyst for more development and to link downtown and midtown, turning a blighted area into a business, residential and entertainment district.
"This is part of investing in Detroit's future," said Snyder, a Republican who blessed a state-appointed emergency manager's request to take the city into bankruptcy last week. "That's the message we need to get across. ... As we stabilize the city government's finances, as we address those issues and improve services, Detroit moves from a place where people might have had a negative impression -- although there are great things already going on -- to being a place that will be recognized across the world as a place of great value and a place to invest."
The Michigan Strategic Fund Board approved the Detroit Downtown Development Authority's request to use economic development taxes for the project. The board also took a preliminary step toward issuing $450 million in bonds to build the arena, to be paid off in no more than 30 years by the Red Wings' owner and the city.
Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch has long wanted a replacement for the 32-year-old Joe Louis Arena located a few miles away. The new complex would be close to the Lions' Ford Field and Tigers' Comerica Park near Interstate 75 and Woodward Avenue (see full story).
-The Associated Press
Stars: Patrick named assistant coach
FRISCO, Texas -- James Patrick has joined the Dallas Stars as an assistant coach, reuniting with former boss and coach Lindy Ruff.
Patrick spent the past seven seasons on Ruff's staff in Buffalo. Patrick also played the last seven of his 21 seasons as an NHL defenseman for the Sabres and Ruff.
Ruff, fired by the Sabres in February, became the Stars' coach last month.
Patrick worked for Ruff from 2006-13. Patrick finished out last season in Buffalo with coach Ron Rolston.
-The Associated Press
Blackhawks: Winchester agrees to one-year deal
Brad Winchester is one step closer to returning to the NHL.
The 32-year-old, who played the entire 2012-13 season in the AHL with Milwaukee, agreed to a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, according to TSN.
Following the lockout last season, Winchester failed to latch on with an NHL club.
Winchester's last full season in the NHL came in 2011-12. He recorded 10 points in 67 games with the San Jose Sharks that season.
Chicago has acquired several other veterans this offseason, including goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and defenseman Mike Kostka. The club also re-signed forward Michal Handzus and Michal Rozsival.
Penguins: Bortuzzo re-signs for two years
Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and the Pittsburgh Penguins agreed to a two-year deal worth $1.2 million on Wednesday, the club announced.
As pointed out by ProHockeyTalk, there are now just four restricted free agents still headed for arbitration -- Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers, Mark Fraser of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Zach Bogosian and Blake Wheeler of the WInnipeg Jets.
Bortuzzo appeared in 15 games for the Penguins last season. He had two goals and two assists while averaging 13:17 of ice time.
Pittsburgh selected Bortuzzo with the 87th-overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft.
His contract has an average annual value of $600,000.