Sources: City approves proposals
Two lease proposals for the Phoenix Coyotes given to the Glendale City Council earlier this week were approved, sources told ESPN.com on Thursday.
A pair of potential ownership groups, Ice Edge Holdings and a rival bidding group that includes Chicago White Sox/Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and local businessmen, presented the proposals.
The NHL bought the Coyotes in U.S. Bankruptcy court last year after an attempt by Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie to buy the team and force a move to Hamilton, Ontario, was rejected. The league has said it would consider moving the team if no local owner is found by June (the league's transitional lease with the city of Glendale ends June 30). Any sale that would keep the team in Arizona would require a new lease agreement with the city of Glendale.
There have been repeated reports Ice Edge's financing is on shaky ground, but the head of the group said earlier this week his company remains on track to purchase the Coyotes.
Chief executive officer Anthony LeBlanc also said the company has hired former Arizona attorney general Grant Woods to finalize a lease agreement with the city of Glendale.
In an e-mail to The Associated Press on Monday night, LeBlanc quoted Mark Twain in saying, "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."
But sources close to the Coyotes' situation believe Glendale may run out of time before it can decide on a lease that works for the city and franchise, and the NHL will have no choice but to move the team even as the Coyotes are enjoying their best on-ice season and their first trip to the postseason since 2002.
Still, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement earlier this week the league has no agreement to move the Coyotes to Winnipeg or anywhere else if owners cannot be found to keep the team in Arizona. He said the league's focus remains on keeping the team in Glendale and "based on the communications and information" the NHL is receiving, those involved continue to be highly confident that the transaction can be completed.
The Winnipeg Jets moved to Arizona and became the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996. The team has never turned a profit in the desert.
"At this point in time the National Hockey League has no 'deal' in place to move the Coyotes' franchise to Winnipeg -- or to any other city for that matter -- in the event a transaction cannot be timely consummated in Glendale," Daly said in a statement Monday.
"We have had ongoing discussions over time regarding their potential interest in owning an NHL franchise ... and potentially bringing an NHL franchise back to Winnipeg," Daly continued. "It remains an intriguing possibility and one we would consider given appropriate circumstances, but there is nothing new to report on that front at this time."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.