Coyotes future in Phoenix hinges on new lease

If the NHL is successful in buying the Phoenix Coyotes in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the league plans to quickly engage in talks over a new lease agreement with the city of Glendale.

PHOENIX — If the NHL is successful in buying the Phoenix Coyotes in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the league plans to quickly engage in talks over a new lease agreement with the city of Glendale.

If no deal is forthcoming, the NHL says it would be forced to turn to a buyer to move the team elsewhere.

“I think we’ve got to get the lease situation resolved or not by the end of this calendar year,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said on Thursday.

No new lease could mean a lame-duck season in Glendale while plans are made to relocate the franchise.

“That’s always a possibility. We’re hoping that’s not the case,” Daly said. “Our first priority is to find a local purchaser because we think this team belongs in Phoenix.”

The lack of a new lease with Glendale prompted the NHL to take the unusual move this week of submitting a bid to purchase the franchise.

The league acted while its preferred purchaser, a group headed by Chicago sports entrepreneur Jerry Reinsdorf, pulled out because it had been unable to reach a deal with Glendale by Tuesday’s court-imposed deadline for submitting a firm offer.

Ice Edge Holdings, a group of Canadian and American investors, submitted a bid, but it’s contingent on reaching an agreement with Glendale, something Ice Edge CEO Anthony LeBlanc says must happen by the end of next week.

“The risk is if we don’t finalize a deal with the city we simply can’t move forward with the auction,” LeBlanc said.

The franchise is scheduled to be sold at auction on Sept. 10.

The NHL bid would assume the existing lease agreement but only through the coming season.

“We felt at this point the best thing for the franchise was to put in our own bid, which doesn’t contain any contingencies,” Daly said.

The NHL plans to resell the team outside of the encumbrances of bankruptcy court. Daly placed much of the blame for a lack of local bidders on Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes and BlackBerry billionaire Jim Balsillie, saying the two “have taken every opportunity to make it as difficult as possible” for potential buyers who would keep the franchise in Arizona. The franchise’s value has been eroded by the bankruptcy process, Daly said.

“I think to a certain extent the Moyes and the Balsillie parties have intentionally tried to damage the club to make it less attractive to the local purchasers,” Daly said.

The case should come to a head next Wednesday, when arguments are scheduled on Balsillie’s request that Judge Redfield T. Baum overrule the NHL vote and approve relocating the team in Hamilton. The NHL refuses to consider relocation, saying the issue is moot because Balsillie has been rejected as an owner.

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