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Coyotes sale to Hulsizer on verge of closing, Bettman says

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TORONTO — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday he believes the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes to Matthew Hulsizer is on the verge of closing and if it doesn’t soon, the league will pursue other options.

"We’ll hang in there as long as it makes sense and as long as we can. But time is getting short. This is not something that is of infinite duration," Bettman told reporters at the NHL All-Star weekend in Raleigh, N.C.

The NHL has had the option of looking elsewhere in terms of solving its franchise troubles in Phoenix since the start of the new year but hasn’t gone to those extremes to this point.

"There was no deadline of Dec. 31. On Dec. 31, we had the option of pursuing alternatives.

"We’re not doing that yet, as it appears everything is on track. Any reports to the contrary are absolutely baseless and without foundation," said Bettman, in reference to reports that the City of Glendale is having difficulty in raising the $100 million it has pledged to give Hulsizer to help him purchase the Coyotes from the NHL for US$170 million.

Glendale has also committed to giving Hulsizer $97 million over the next six years to offset operating losses. "We’re hoping in the next couple of weeks or so, everything will be resolved and the franchise will close."

Bettman said the NHL has not set a deadline for the Coyotes sale to be complete before they begin to look at other options, such as selling the franchise to True North Sports and Entertainment for relocation to Winnipeg.

"I know it would satisfy anyone’s sense of finality to announce a drop-dead date. As long as the process is holding together with a time frame that we can deal with, with the schedule and the like, we’re going to hang in there," said Bettman. "If it becomes clear that the train is off the rails, or the train isn’t getting to the station any time soon, then we’ll have to reevaluate our position. We’re not going, by a matter of a day or two, just simply make an artificial date."

Bettman says he’s tried to protect those hoping for an NHL team in Winnipeg.

"I have tried to be as careful as I can be not to raise expectations in Winnipeg," he said. "If we have to move a club, it would be good to go back to a place we were once in, that has a different situation (now)."

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

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