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Shoalts: Familiar names resurface as Coyotes fiasco drags on

Phoenix Coyotes fans cheer against the Detroit Red Wings in the second period of Game 3 of their NHL Western Conference quarter-final hockey game in Glendale, Arizona, April 18, 2011.

Reuters

Someone really needs to fix that broken record playing down Phoenix way. Or take a goalie stick to that movie projector playing an endless loop of Groundhog Day.

As hard as it is to believe, not quite two weeks after Greg Jamison became the latest would-be Phoenix Coyotes owner to fail to produce even a whiff of money, a couple of familiar names were in a report Tuesday in the Arizona Republic as teaming up to look at buying the Coyotes from the NHL.

Anthony LeBlanc, the principal of the Ice Edge group of investors who has been kicking around this deal for more than three years, was said to be joining forces with Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer, who took a run at the team a couple of years ago.

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Alas, even that tenuous scenario is not quite what it appears. A few phone calls, e-mails and text messages showed the situation has not changed from what your humble servant wrote two weeks ago: Hulsizer will only be interested in taking another look at the Coyotes if someone can bring him a finished deal, complete with an arena lease with the suburban City of Glendale that pays enough to make it sensible to own a team that loses more than $20-million (all currency U.S.) a year.

Hulsizer has no interest in spending any time doing the legwork with Glendale's new city council or the NHL, which is still insisting it has to get $170-million for the team it bought out of bankruptcy almost three and a half years ago.

Yes, LeBlanc and Hulsizer have talked. They became friends during this enduring sideshow and they talk regularly. But LeBlanc, who was the only known partner in Jamison's failed bid for the team, was told the same thing Hulsizer tells everyone else: Bring me something that makes sense and I might be interested.

So LeBlanc, in turn, put in a call to new Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers. They plan to meet and LeBlanc will see if there is any reason to head once more into the breach. Confirmation of this came from LeBlanc, who indicated the prospects of success are such that this is not exactly on his front burner.

"I'll go have a chat with the mayor and see if there's a reason to engage," he said.

If there is any reason to proceed, the work will be done by LeBlanc. It will be up to him to convince the new Glendale council, which has four members who were not part of the bunch that handed over at least $225-million over the years to various Coyotes owners to build their arena and cover some of their losses, to pay out something close to the lease for Jobing.com Arena that Jamison negotiated.

That sweetheart deal would have seen the city of 250,000 long-suffering souls pay Jamison an average of $15-million per year for 20 years to operate the arena and collect most of the revenue it generated.

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Here's what Weiers said of that possibility: "I can guarantee you there is not the same will on council to do the same deal with anyone else."

And LeBlanc, Hulsizer, Jerry Reinsdorf, Jerry Moyes, Steve Ellman or anyone else who's come within a mile of owning the Coyotes will tell you that owning a team that consistently ranks in the bottom two or three NHL teams in attendance makes no sense without a cash-cow lease.

However, there might be one way a group of investors might, with the emphasis on might, look at buying the team with a lease that pays out more reasonable arena-management fees. If Glendale and the NHL agree to an escape clause after one year, maybe two at the most, should the Coyotes continue to bleed money, then someone might buy in with an eye to moving.

But, as one insider said, why do that when as it looks now all you have to do is wait four or five months and even the NHL will be ready to relocate?

Oh, and those two groups the mayor keeps dropping hints about who are supposedly interested in buying the Coyotes? One, of course, is LeBlanc. The other one, surprise, surprise, is whispered to be led by someone from parts unknown with deep pockets. Gee, we've never heard that before have we?

Translation: Some rich guy was too polite to immediately hang up when someone from either Glendale or the NHL called.

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About the Author
Hockey columnist

A native of Wainfleet, Ont., David Shoalts joined The Globe in 1984 after working at the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun and Toronto Sun. He graduated in 1978 from Conestoga College and also attended the University of Waterloo. More

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