Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Deal to keep Coyotes in desert fluid

Ice Edge group, Glendale have basis for deal, report says

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Ice EDGE Holdings Inc.'s chances of acquiring the Phoenix Coyotes were suddenly revived Friday, and so were the chances of the Coyotes remaining in Arizona.

ESPN.com, citing sources, reported Friday night that the city of Glendale, Ariz., and Ice Edge, a group of U.S. and Canadian investors, have agreed "on all points on a new lease agreement" for Jobing.com Arena.

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The website reported that Ice Edge and Glendale could sign a letter of exclusivity as early as Monday, which would put an end to Chicago sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf's bid to buy the team.

Ice Edge is reportedly waiting for Glendale council to sign off on a number of conditions demanded by the NHL, which bought the team out of bankruptcy last fall.

The league wants Glendale to agree to certain conditions regarding operating losses the team might suffer next season if it can't sell the team before the season starts.

Glendale city council is expected to discuss those conditions on Tuesday at a public meeting, the website reported.

That the league might exercise its option to sell the team if Glendale officials don't agree to the conditions sparked talk of the potential return of the team to Winnipeg, from where the Jets franchise fled in 1996.

Earlier Friday, speculation had Toronto-based billionaire David Thomson and Mark Chipman, chairman of Winnipeg-based True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd., spearheading the Coyotes' move to Winnipeg.

Thomson and Chipman are partners in True North, which owns the 15,000-seat MTS Centre and the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League.

A CBC report says Chipman and Thomson will get financial help from the Manitoba government for the purchase price, which is said to be US$165 million.

In an email to Canwest News Service on Friday afternoon, Ice Edge chief operating officer Daryl Jones wrote: "Ice Edge has no comments at this point other than to say that we continue to believe NHL hockey can survive in Phoenix as based on the recent playoff frenzy.

"But we also strongly support the idea of more NHL teams and NHL hockey in marquee Canadian hockey cities like Winnipeg."

Later, Jones was taking a lighthearted approach to the furor, using a quote from the Michael Corleone character in The Godfather Part III in a Twitter message: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."

The news that Ice Edge was back in the picture was a surprise, considering Glendale previously rejected Ice Edge's proposed deal and sided with Reinsdorf instead.

But Reinsdorf's deal reportedly fell through earlier in the week, causing the scramble to bring Ice Edge back in the picture.

A source familiar with Glendale council's dealings with the NHL said the league is putting a lot of pressure on the politicians.

The league wants the city to agree quickly to a lease agreement, or it will sell the club to someone who would move it, the source said.

Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, denied the league is playing hardball with Glendale. He also said in an email message that "as far as I know, there has been no change to the status of the Reinsdorf deal."

The NHL has been running the Coyotes since buying it out of bankruptcy last fall.

The organization has not turned a profit in any season since moving to Phoenix from Winnipeg in 1996.

 

-- Canwest News Service / Globe & Mail

 

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 8, 2010 D2

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