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Ice Edge making progress, spokesman insists

From left to right, Ice Edge Holdings chairman Keith McCullough, CEO Anthony LeBlanc, CFO Todd Jordan, and COO Daryl Jones pose for a photo in a suite at the ACC during NHL regular season action between the Phoenix Coyotes and Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, December 16, 2009.

Darren Calabrese/The Globe and Mail

The group trying to buy the Phoenix Coyotes and keep the NHL club in Arizona insists progress is being made despite reports Tuesday its rescue plan is in trouble.

Ice Edge Holdings spokesman Robert Johnson said in an e-mail to the Winnipeg Free Press they've been working with the City of Glendale for seven weeks to hammer out a deal to lease the arena that was built for the Coyotes in 2003.

"We are making great progress," Johnson said. "Our focus is on buying the team from the NHL and we remain confident in our ability to complete the deal."

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Questions about the arena lease arose Tuesday after the Arizona Republic reported Ice Edge had lost its right to be the sole party negotiating with Glendale to lease the hockey team's home because Ice Edge hadn't submitted all the required financial papers.

Negotiating a new lease is a critical component for any bidder wishing to buy the Coyotes from the NHL. The league bought the team out of bankruptcy last fall after going to court to prevent Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie from buying the team and moving it to Hamilton.

Ice Edge and the City of Glendale reached an agreement June 8 that gave Ice Edge 60 days to exclusively negotiate with Glendale on a new lease for the Jobing.com Arena. The agreement included a clause that Ice Edge had to keep the team in Glendale for the next 25 years and change the team name to the Arizona Coyotes.

The exclusivity arrangement came the day after another key potential buyer - Chicago sports tycoon Jerry Reinsdorf - dropped out of the race to buy the Coyotes.

Since spring, there has been increased speculation that if Glendale can't find a buyer willing to keep the team in Arizona by the end of this year, the NHL might return the team to Winnipeg. A spokesman for True North Entertainment - the Winnipeg company in line to buy the team if the Glendale negotiations fail - would not comment on the latest developments Tuesday.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly also would not comment on the story.

Glendale spokeswoman Julie Frisoni told the Arizona Republic that Ice Edge had not provided all the required documents. Therefore, the exclusivity deal was dead. She told the Free Press on Tuesday the city was not commenting except to say the Republic story was "accurate."

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However, Frisoni was uncertain whether the two sides have to complete the talks by Aug. 6. That deadline, mentioned in the Republic story, was when the exclusivity deal ran out, but not necessarily the time to negotiate.

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