Sharks Hockey Team on Thin Ice With San Jose Airport

The San Jose Sharks and the hockey team's charter air carrier are the worst violators of the overnight curfew at Mineta San Jose International Airport.

Sky King's attorney declined to comment.

Many scheduled airline flights also break the curfew but are not considered to be violators because the city grants exemptions for flights delayed by weather, air traffic control or mechanical problems. The regular airlines also violate the curfew on occasion -- flying late without an exemption. Among those, American has the most violations -- about 10 since late 2003. But American has thousands of flights a year; Sky King has a couple dozen.

Doyle, the city attorney, said the revisions made the curfew legally defensible, and he will consider seeking a temporary restraining order prohibiting further violations by Sky King. A court order would strengthen the city's position because a violation could bring a contempt-of-court action and more serious penalties than the $2,500 fine the city can levy.

"This is the worst violator," Doyle said. "We have one cowboy operator out there in Sky King."

Doyle said he wasn't aware the Sharks had resumed violating the curfew this season until a Knight Ridder reporter made inquiries last week. He said the city did not seek a restraining order when it filed the suit in 2004 because the hockey season was canceled and the city could not demonstrate an immediate threat of harm to the public from future violations. The suit has yet to be heard by a judge.

Until last week, Sky King had paid fines for only the first two violations in 2003-04. Sharks officials said that on Friday afternoon Sky King delivered a check for $38,000 to City Hall to cover its unpaid bills, including those for its standard airport use charges, some of which are nearly two years old.

Jamison would not say if the Sharks are giving Sky King money to pay the fines.

In a general defense motion, Sky King argued that the city's curfew law was illegal.

Before filing the lawsuit, Doyle brought the matter to the city council in a closed session. The attorney said he could not recall whether he pointed out that Sky King's passengers were the high-profile hockey team. "I suspect I did but I can't specifically recall," Doyle said.

Council members Ken Yeager and Cindy Chavez, whose districts are most affected by airport noise, said they couldn't recall whether they were told the Sharks were involved.

"Overall, the city has made great advances with enforcing the curfew, except with this charter company and the Sharks," Yeager said. "It's a problem. That's why we're taking them to court." Yeager said he was working to set up a meeting with city officials and Sharks executives this week.

For Sharks players, the curfew can be one big headache.

"I'm used to it," said Sharks captain Patrick Marleau, an eight-year veteran. "But a lot of guys coming from the East, they could be home in their bed by 12:30 or 1 a.m. It adds up. Definitely, it'd be huge if we could land in San Jose."

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