DETROIT – The NHL’s goal is the keep the Coyotes in Phoenix.
Whether it will happen is still in doubt.
Speaking at the league’s announcement of the 2014 Winter Classic on Sunday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league’s focus is to leave the Coyotes in the desert.
“We’re not planning on moving Phoenix as we stand here today,” he said.
The Coyotes have been run by the NHL since 2009, when former owner Jerry Moyes took the team into bankruptcy in a bid to sell to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, who would move the franchise to Hamilton, Ontario. The NHL vehemently opposed that plan, and a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge later refused to allow the sale to go through.
The Coyotes have had several suitors since then, but haven’t been able to complete a deal.
The latest, with former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison, fell through when his group couldn’t come through with its finances in time to meet a deadline on a 20-year, $308 million lease agreement with the City Glendale for Jobing.com Arena.
Despite reports that the league has looked at relocating the franchise, Bettman said it hasn’t looked at that option yet.
“We haven’t been exploring the alternatives,” Bettman said. “We are exploring everything we can do to work this out, and there seems to be considerable interest. If you go through the history of this, there have been lots of reasons—not excuses, but lots of reasons—this has taken a lot of time. There seems to be now, in the calm of the moment, a lot more interest than we’ve ever seen.”
Canadian businessmen George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc submitted a purchase bid last week, and a group led by Buffalo, N.Y. businessman Darin Pastor also put in a proposal.
Jamison is still working on a deal, and former suitor Matthew Hulsizer is reportedly interested.
Bettman said the league would select an ownership bid before talking with Glendale about a lease agreement for Jobing.com Arena. The city recently hired a company to find a manager to run the arena and handle negotiations with prospective owners.
“I’ve been in regular touch with the mayor and we agreed that when we get a framework lined up, then we would come see the city,” Bettman told reporters. “We don’t want the city to have to expend resources and time getting involved until there’s something concrete to present to them.”