The sale of the Phoenix Coyotes to Chicago sports tycoon Jerry Reinsdorf appears to be dead -- opening the door once again to the possibility of the NHL franchise returning to Winnipeg.
The Coyotes moved to the Arizona desert from Winnipeg following the 1995-96 NHL season.
ESPN.com reported Thursday night that the city of Glendale, Ariz., has returned to the previously rejected Ice Edge Holdings, a group of Canadian and American businessmen, in an 11th-hour attempt to keep the team in Phoenix.
Glendale City Council is expected to file documents this morning accepting a new lease proposal from Ice Edge and agreeing to work exclusively with the group, sources said.
ESPN.com also said the city must guarantee a number of conditions with the NHL, including covering operating losses next season, before the league will consider selling the team to Ice Edge.
One source said the league wants conditions met by the end of this week, although NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com that the timeline is not accurate. Ice Edge is thought to be waiting for those conditions to be met before signing the agreement with the city.
Last month, the city of Glendale voted unanimously (6-0) in favor of Reinsdorf's proposal and voted 5-1 against a bid submitted by Ice Edge Holdings.
At the time, Ice Edge pledged to keep the team at Jobing.com Arena for the remaining 24 years of the pre-bankruptcy lease.
With deadlines approaching, Winnipeg's MTS Centre is looking pretty inviting. The NHL has said it is within its rights to move the Coyotes without penalty prior to June 30.
ESPN.com speculated that if Glendale does not agree to the NHL's conditions, it is possible the league will instead move quickly to finalize a purchase agreement with Winnipeg-based True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd. and move the team to the MTS Centre. Canadian billionaire David Thomson and Manitoba Moose governor Mark Chipman are partners in True North. Chipman is also chairman of True North.
Sources told ESPN.com there is a purchase agreement ready with True North if the Glendale situation falls apart.
Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes agreed to sell his bankrupt franchise to the NHL last fall and the league has been seeking a suitable buyer ever since.
The likely purchase price for the team is thought to be between US$140 and $150 million.