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NHL inches closer to settling Coyotes' fate

The Phoenix Coyotes celebrate after Adrian Aucoin scored the game-winning goal in overtime against the Detroit Red Wings at the Arena on Oct. 22.

Christian Petersen/Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The NHL is expected to move a step closer today toward resolving the ownership saga of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Lawyers for the NHL will be in front of Arizona bankruptcy court Judge Redfield T. Baum to address his concerns about the league's bid for the club. If the judge is satisfied, the hearing could clear the way for the NHL to become the club's new owner within a few weeks.

Meanwhile, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will hold a meeting in New York today with representatives of Ice Edge Holdings, a group of eight Canadian and U.S. businessmen who want to buy the club.

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Bettman has indicated that once the league acquires control of the Coyotes, NHL officials will begin looking for a new owner. Ice Edge has made it clear it plans to submit an offer as soon as possible.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the meeting will take place, but he did not offer details. Daryl Jones, an Ice Edge investor, declined comment.

Last month, Baum rejected the only two offers for the Coyotes: the NHL's and one from Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie. The judge said Balsillie's $242.5-million (all currency U.S.) bid could not overcome several legal hurdles, but he said the NHL's offer, worth about $140-million, could be revised to make it acceptable.

During today's status hearing before Judge Baum, lawyers for the league are expected to outline their revisions.

Ice Edge withdrew from the bidding for the Coyotes last month, saying it had run out of time to negotiate an arena lease with the City of Glendale, the Phoenix suburb that owns the arena where the team plays. Ice Edge has been negotiating with the city recently and it has reached an agreement in principle on a new lease.

If it gets control of the Coyotes, the group plans to play several "home games" in Saskatoon. However, that plan has not been endorsed by the league.

Ice Edge has also been in contact with representatives of Wayne Gretzky, the club's former coach and a co-owner. The group has said it wants Gretzky to play a role with the club. It's not clear what Gretzky would do and nothing has been finalized.

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Another potential buyer for the Coyotes is Jerry Reinsdorf. He dropped out of the bidding last summer, but sources say one of his representatives recently contacted city officials. However, sources say there has been little indication so far that Reinsdorf is interested in buying the club.

On the ice, the Coyotes have enjoyed a strong start to the season, posting a winning record and beating the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins. But the club's finances remain bleak.

According to recent court filings, the Coyotes lost $3.5-million in September, which included a handful of pre-season games. That brought the total loss for the first quarter of the club's fiscal year, which begins on July 1, to $10.8-million.

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About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More

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