OTTAWA – NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says there are three groups showing “serious” interest in buying the Phoenix Coyotes with the intention of keeping the team in Glendale, Ariz.
Without going into detail, Bettman revealed there was a third group during his weekly radio show broadcast from Ottawa, where the league’s all-star game is being held this weekend.
“There are probably three different groups that are taking a serious look at buying the Coyotes to keep them where they’re located,” Bettman said in a broadcast that was also showed on the NHL Network. He added that Glendale is also “very much part of the equation,” referring to the city, which has paid out US$25 million in each of the past two seasons to keep the Coyotes while the NHL operates the team and seeks an owner. The NHL purchased the team out of bankruptcy in 2009.
The two groups known to have expressed interest in the Coyotes are one led by former San Jose Sharks president and CEO Greg Jamison, and another by Chicago sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf.
Bettman said the sales process remains a “work in progress,” and he’s hoping to prevent the Coyotes from relocating, but didn’t rule out the team moving if a deal isn’t reached.
“We’re going to try to avoid a move of the Coyotes, but if we don’t sell the club, I’m not sure that this won’t be the last season here,” he said.
Bettman made his comments in response to a fan’s question.
The Coyotes’ future is expected to be brought up during the NHL’s Board of Governors meeting in Ottawa on Saturday. Bettman is scheduled to address the media following the meeting.
The NHL has already gone through relocation once last year, when the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg to become the Jets. As it turns out, it was the Jets who moved to Phoenix to become the Coyotes in 1996.