Coyotes talks break down

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

Mark this day on your calendars, folks — the day NHL hockey returns to Winnipeg.

Or not.

Never thought I’d see the day where a meeting of politicians in the southern U.S. caught the attention of Winnipeggers, but today’s city council meeting in Glendale, Ariz., seems to have done just that.

On the agenda is a proposal that would, in effect, see Glendale promise to cover the losses of the Coyotes using new user fees in the district the team plays if the NHL’s plan to sell the team falls through, forcing the league to own it another year.

Depending on whom you ask, the proposal is either illegal in Arizona or a no-brainer for a city that spent $180 million on an arena and needs an anchor tenant.

The thing is, I wouldn’t hold my breath on anything actually getting resolved today, other than that specific issue.

Because based on late-breaking news Monday night, there are still a slew of issues threatening to bog things down — or maybe blow them up.

Ice Edge Holdings, the group of Canadian and American business types the city of Glendale initially rejected, then recently asked to return to the table, is now threatening to walk away again.

Ice Edge wanted Glendale politicians to sign an exclusivity agreement, effectively ensuring the other prospective buyer of the Coyotes, Chicago-based Jerry Reinsdorf, is out of the picture.

Glendale didn’t agree to that condition by last night’s deadline.

“Ice Edge is confirming reports that talks have broken down with COG (City of Glendale),” Ice Edge’s Daryl Jones wrote on Twitter, saying Ice Edge was given “little choice” but to back away. “Talks have broken off for a number of reasons.”

What does this mean for the future of the Coyotes?

“Nothing — at this point,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Sun in an e-mail.

Daly said the Glendale council vote will go ahead.

If the plan gets council’s OK, it gives the NHL some insurance while it tries to work out a sale with Ice Edge, or Reinsdorf, or anybody that remains interested — assuming there is somebody.

With assurances in place that the Coyotes won’t be a drain on NHL owners — they forked over a reported $20 to $30 million to run the team this past season — the league could, presumably, work past its June 30 deadline to nail down a sale.

Of course, there’s significant political will to keep the ’Yotes right where they are.

“The Coyotes are an integral, critical part of everything we do out there in that sports and entertainment district,” city of Glendale spokesperson Julie Frisoni told the Sun Monday. “The city is confident we are moving close to the end of this finish line.”

That was before last night’s breakdown in talks with Ice Edge.

Frisoni says the plan to have area residents and businesses support the franchise through user fees — capped at $25 million — is well within Arizona law, with similar deals in place in other parts of the state.

If Glendale councillors need a nudge, they’ll get it in the form of Coyotes fans at tonight’s meeting.

“Our council members have had full-house meetings with fans and residents who are asking to do what needs to be done to keep them,” Frisoni said. “It’s definitely a hot area of interest.”

Now, what happens if the plan passes, but Ice Edge walks away?

Conceivably, the NHL could continue to own the team for a final, lame-duck season, with Glendale paying its losses. How that sour prospect plays out in the minds of Arizona politicians, we may find out today.

And if both Glendale and Ice Edge say to hell with it and wash their hands of the whole mess, things will get really interesting from a Winnipeg perspective.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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