Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ice Edge feels Winnipeg's pain

Don't want to stand in way of NHL's return to city, but...

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Daryl Jones and his Ice Edge partners feel a little queasy about getting in the way of a potential new Canadian-based National Hockey League franchise.

But business is business.

Jones told the Winnipeg Free Press on Sunday that Ice Edge realizes the group could be standing in the way of the NHL's return to Winnipeg, and regrets that his firm looks like the bad guy to Manitobans.

"For me and my partners, you have to understand we would love to see more NHL franchises in Canada and that includes Winnipeg," said Jones, listed as chief operating officer of Ice Edge and a native of Bassano, Alta. "It's ironic that we're perceived as an impediment to more NHL teams in Canada because we believe that would be best for the league. We're mostly small-town Canada guys and we don't like the characterization that we're in the way at all.

"We think Winnipeg is a viable market, with a new building that some might think is a little small, but with excellent ownership in place. We'd be behind having a team in Winnipeg. With the salary cap and the strength of the Canadian dollar, Winnipeg is a very viable market."

He also added that the group's acquisition of the Phoenix Coyotes franchise is far from a done deal.

Jones rated Ice Edge's chance of closing the deal at 50-50.

"If the city of Glendale decides to cover any losses for next season and if they can secure the financing to do that, I think the deal will go through. As far as our end of the deal, we're pretty close to finalizing things. The city of Glendale has to satisfy the NHL's conditions and that's basically an agreement to pick up any losses should a sale fall through down the line. If the NHL sells the team to us and the sale goes through, we're on the hook," said Jones.

"We have the basic outline of a lease agreement. It's a brand-new lease and it would enable us, we believe, to make hockey in Phoenix profitable. Hockey can work in non-traditional markets. Look at San Jose."

Jones was asked if he believed the new lease would get past the Goldwater Institute, a taxpayers' watchdog lobby in Arizona that has already made noise about taxpayer money being used to fund the Coyotes.

"We've developed a good relationship with the Goldwater Institute and the bottom line is any lease has to satisfy them," said Jones. "That's our goal, to make sure the lease works for Glendale, Ice Edge and the Goldwater Institute. Because it has to."

Much has been made about Ice Edge and their financial backing. Jones says the money is there if a deal can be made.

"We have a group of partners, including John Breslaw, who is a former partner in the Coyotes' ownership group and a number of banks that are very interested in financing this deal," said Jones. "The NHL has done background checks on the partners. We're not approved, but we're well down that road."

Ice Edge originally came on the scene with a plan to play a minimum of five Coyotes home games in Saskatoon. Jones is unsure how that part of the deal will play out.

"It's still on the table but we would have to do what was best for the fans in Phoenix. You can't be seen as taking anything away from them," said Jones. "And we wouldn't want the people of Saskatoon to look at these games as a money grab. I still think it's a pretty neat idea. But it would also be five more road games for our players and that's something to think about as well."

The Coyotes have reportedly lost in excess of $100 million in the last five years but Jones believes Ice Edge can turn the franchise around.

"We think it's been mismanaged and with the right lease in place and the option to secure other revenue streams, hockey in Phoenix is viable, in our opinion," said Jones.

Ice Edge, should they acquire the Coyotes, plans to operate them in Arizona and not relocate the club.

"That's why the (Jerry) Reinsdorf bid fell apart. They wanted to be able to relocate. That's not our angle. We don't want to move the team."

Glendale city council is to vote Tuesday night on a motion to give its city manager the power to assure the NHL it will meet the league's conditions. It is believed the NHL is demanding an assurance that any Coyotes' losses will be covered if the league operates the team for one more season.

"That's the next step. If that fails or if our negotiations fall through, I think the team will move and there's a handful of cities that will be in the running. In my opinion, Winnipeg is at the top of that list," said Jones. "If the city satisfies the NHL's conditions on Tuesday, the team will stay in Glendale for at least another year."

Jones believes Winnipeg's ability to readily accomodate an NHL franchise puts the city of Glendale, which built Jobing.com Arena for the Coyotes, in a tenuous position.

"If they don't agree to the NHL's stipulations, they have to be prepared to see the team leave and Winnipeg makes that an easy option for the NHL," said Jones.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Who is Ice Edge?

-- Anthony LeBlanc is the chief executive officer of Ice Edge Holdings, LLC. He has spent his career in senior marketing positions with some of Canada's highest-profile companies, including eight years at Research In Motion. LeBlanc is a native of Thunder Bay and is on the Lakehead University Board of Governors.

 

-- Keith McCullough is the chairman of Ice Edge Holdings, LLC and the CEO of Research Edge LLC. Prior to founding Research Edge, he managed money at The Carlyle Group's hedge fund, Magnetar Capital, Falconhenge Partners and Dawson-Herman Capital Management. He earned his BA in economics from Yale, where he captained the hockey team to the Ivy League title.

 

-- Daryl Jones is the chief operating officer of Ice Edge Holdings, LLC and has served as the group's spokesman. He is a native of Bassano, Alta., and played hockey at Yale. He is a managing director at Research Edge, LLC. He has been a research analyst with Onex Corp., Dawson-Herman Capital Management and J.P. Morgan. He has a BA in political science from Yale and an MBA from Columbia University.

 

-- Todd Jordan is the chief financial officer of Ice Edge Holdings, LLC and managing director of gaming, lodging and leisure at Research Edge. He has been a portfolio manager, managing director, and analyst at Jefferies Asset Management, Cobalt Capital and Ardsley Partners. Previously, he worked as a sell-side analyst at Raymond James, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein and Buckingham Research. Jordan earned his MBA from the University of Chicago.

 

-- Source: www.iceedgeholdings.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2010 C1

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Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
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