The would-be owners of the Phoenix Coyotes are turning their attention to the minor leagues.
Ice Edge Holdings, the group that has been pursuing the former Winnipeg Jets since last year, has begun formal discussions to bring an ECHL franchise to Thunder Bay.
"Ice Edge has concurrently been focusing on several opportunities in professional sports during the past year," said its chairman, Keith McCullough, in a press release.
"We are here in Thunder Bay today because we are beginning the official process of working with the ECHL in regards to bringing an expansion team (here)."
Ice Edge is scheduled to hold a press conference in Thunder Bay today.
But this move may mark the end of Ice Edge’s formal efforts to buy the Coyotes and keep them in Arizona (except for five games per season, which it said it wanted to have played in Saskatoon.) Ice Edge said it continues to be involved with the purchase of the Coyotes but it understands another party is in "advanced discussions" with respect to buying the team.
"An announcement could happen soon. If this occurs, we expect to continue to be involved with the Coyotes as an adviser for the foreseeable future," McCullough said.
The ECHL, one of three leagues recognized by the National Hockey League’s Players Association, has teams scattered across the U.S. and Canada. Most of its 20 franchises serve as feeder teams to American Hockey League teams. It has only one team north of the 49th parallel, the Victoria Salmon Kings, which is affiliated with the Manitoba Moose and the Vancouver Canucks.