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The Globe and Mail

Former Habs suitor sets sights on Coyotes

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addresses reporters during a news conference in Glendale, Ariz., on Monday.

Christian Petersen/Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Montreal businessman Steve Stotland is leading a group of Phoenix-area investors who want to buy the NHL's Coyotes and keep the team in Glendale, Ariz.

Stotland, part of a group that looked into buying the Montreal Canadiens when they were up for sale in 2000 and again this past spring, said he began pursuing the Coyotes after the team emerged from bankruptcy court and was sold to the NHL this month.

Though the team is drawing an average crowd of 9,850 after 12 home games and is projected to lose as much as $50-million (all currency U.S.) this season, Stotland and his Camelback Hockey Group believe the team's financial fortunes can be turned around with local ownership and continued improved play on the ice.

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The team "has been with an ownership group that is telling people that hockey doesn't work in the desert," Stotland said. "Now that the bankruptcy is done and the NHL owns the team, we're going to move forward."

Stotland said his group is comprised of high net-worth individuals in the Phoenix area, some of whom are associated with the area's pension funds.

"I can confirm that we've had discussions and we continue to be in contact," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. "I know he's done due diligence and met with the team and that's the extent of it. He seems to be excited by the prospect of owning the team and we'll see where it goes."

Daly said Stotland was familiar to the NHL dating back to his involvement with Jon Ledecky, a former part-owner of the Washington Capitals who was negotiating to buy the Canadiens before they were sold to George Gillett in early 2001.

Stotland said he is the only member of the group not living in Phoenix but plans to move to the city if his group ends up with the team.

"Every other group is not representing local [interests]" Stotland said. "I'm coming from a different direction. … The biggest factor is to get local support from our local investors."

Daly said the NHL has received several expressions of interest for the team and while they aren't necessarily being led by local individuals, "they all are looking for some degree of local ownership."

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Stotland Camelback's commitment to Phoenix would be negotiated as part of the sale with the NHL.

"They will put stipulations which we will have to abide by," Stotland said. "We're not in there for one year. We're committed. But the financial agreements have to be reasonable because the NHL doesn't want a local group to go through the same thing the last owner did. I want to show the NHL is viable in Glendale. [ Arena]is one of the nicest facilities in the NHL. And if we start winning, with a local group in place, we just have to get the fans back."

Stotland said he met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Daly about 10 days ago in New York. He has also met with Coyotes president Doug Moss.

With a report from David Shoalts

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