GLENDALE, Ariz. – NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called the Glendale City Council’s approval of a proposed arena lease agreement by a group headed by Chicago sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf a “terrific step” in the process of the league finding a new owner for the Phoenix Coyotes.
“I appreciate all the efforts that are being made by the city of Glendale. But there is obviously some more work to be done,” Bettman said Wednesday night in a brief news conference before Game 1 of the Red Wings-Coyotes series.
The commissioner declined to give a timetable for the transaction but said he doesn’t anticipate any problems in the league selling the team to Reinsdorf’s group, which intends to keep the club in Glendale. The NHL purchased the team in bankruptcy court last year.
“He’s somebody who’s well known to me and to the other owners. He’s somebody who obviously owns a franchise in two other major professional sports leagues,” Bettman said referring to the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and baseball’s Chicago White Sox.
Reinsdorf’s group was in contention to buy the Coyotes last year but pulled out when it was unable to meet a deadline for submitting a firm offer.
The proposed lease agreement includes an “out clause” after five years, which Bettman indicated he did not object to. There are 24 years remaining on the current lease.
“Every lease has a termination date,” he said. “… With the investment of substantial sums of money and what this franchise has been through, what they’re really saying is we want to make sure it works.”
Bettman congratulated the Coyotes on their season “under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.”
“I think this organization from top to bottom conducted itself admirably,” he said.
Phoenix is in the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and set franchise records for wins (50) and points (107).
Bettman also playfully responded to questions about Phoenix possibly winning the Stanley Cup.
“My name, Bill Daly’s name and the other 29 owners in this league will not be on the Cup. … By the way, just to be a little hyper technical here, I’m not the owner of the club,” he said. “The club is owned by the other 29 clubs. But I understand the question, and it’s always amusing to get it and see the answer written about me that I will be presenting the Cup to myself.”