PHOENIX – The Ice Edge group is back in the picture as a potential buyer for the Phoenix Coyotes.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says Ice Edge has resumed talks with the city of Glendale over a lease agreement. The Glendale City Council had previously rejected Ice Edge’s proposed deal and approved an agreement with a group headed by Chicago sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf.
Daly would not comment on reports that Reinsdorf’s deal had fallen through or that the NHL was preparing to possibly move the team back to Winnipeg if no owner can be found to keep the team in Arizona.
However, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that as of Friday, Reinsdorf was still in. The individual requested anonymity because that information had not been authorized for release.
The NHL purchased the team in U.S. Bankruptcy Court last fall with the stated intention of finding an owner who would keep the franchise in Arizona.
If the Glendale City Council was to reconsider the Ice Edge matter at its next meeting Tuesday night, the issue would have to be on the agenda that had been expected to be made public by mid-afternoon on Friday. However, no agenda was posted as the day wore on, an indication that talks were ongoing.
Ice Edge was formed by a group of Canadian and U.S. investors relatively late in the bidding to buy the team last year. Both Ice Edge and the Reinsdorf group withdrew their bids in bankruptcy court because they had failed to reach a new lease deal with Glendale to play in Jobing.com Arena.
When U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Redfield T. Baum tossed out a bid by Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie to buy the team and move it to Hamilton over the NHL’s vehement objections, that left the league as the only bidder.
Meanwhile, the team went on to have highly unexpected success on the ice, setting franchise records for wins and points and selling out the arena late in the season. The Coyotes were eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs in seven games.
The franchise never has turned a profit since moving from Winnipeg in 1996. Jerry Moyes, the owner who took the team into bankruptcy, said in court documents that he had lost some US$300 million on the team.
Reinsdorf, owner of baseball’s Chicago White Sox and the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, is no great fan of hockey and saw the deal only as a business venture. Ice Edge chief executive officer Anthony LeBlanc has said that the members of his group are avid hockey fans who would not seek an out clause to move the team.
Just last Saturday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said selling the team to Reinsdorf would be “great for this league.”
True North Sports and Entertainment, owner of the 15,000-seat MTS Centre in Winnipeg, released a statement to Canadian media.
“While we understand the current situation with the hockey team in Glendale is an uncertain one,” it read, “we will continue to respect the efforts of all parties involved to maintain the Coyotes in Arizona, including those of the National Hockey League. As we have stated many times in the past, if that situation changes, we are certainly open to reviewing the opportunity with the NHL.”