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Mystery group now interested in Coyotes

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A new group has entered the game for the cash-strapped Phoenix Coyotes but it does not change the NHL's deadline on or requirement for a US $25-million guarantee from the City of Glendale, Ariz.

The league has demanded that payment so that it has no liability for losses in the 2010-11 NHL season should the Coyotes remain in the Phoenix suburb.

Having purchased the team out of bankruptcy last fall, the NHL operated the franchise and is believed to have lost up to $30 million in the season just ended in the desert.

The terms of the bankruptcy sale allow the NHL to move the team to another location by June 30 if a suitable buyer cannot be found to keep the team in Phoenix.

A new and as yet unidentified party has expressed interest in the team to the City of Glendale, a source said late Wednesday. The source said it was akin to "kicking tires." That interest has been made known to the NHL. According to the Phoenix Business Journal earlier this week, the unnamed buyer or buyers would want to keep the team in Phoenix but would not be able to meet any June 30 deadline for a lease deal with the City of Glendale, which owns Jobing.com Arena.

The other interested party is not True North Sports and Entertainment. The Winnipeg-based group, which has had some serious discussion with the NHL as the June 30 deadline ticks closer, would not want to keep the team in Phoenix if it gets involved in the matter of how to rescue the franchise, which moved from Winnipeg in 1996.

However long the list of potential buyers -- Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and a group called Ice Edge Holdings LLC are already known to be in the running -- the NHL and the city appear to still have no clear way out of the current mess.

The league is insisting on the $25-million guarantee should the team have to stay and it's looking more and more like Glendale will be hard-pressed to arrive at any lease deal with a potential buyer before June 30.

As the calendar moves closer to the end of June, it seems most likely that the NHL, assuming it gets its guarantee against next season's losses, would negotiate a one-year or short-term lease to leave open a window that runs into part of next season so that it can try to find a buyer willing to keep the team where it is.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 20, 2010 C2

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