Game goes on and on

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:34 AM ET

Wondering what you’ll do without hockey for the next few months?

Have no fear, fellow Manitobans, the game’s still on, and promises to be for some time.

Long after the cheers from the Stanley Cup Final have died down, the noise is going to keep coming out of Phoenix, where the city of Glendale has until the end of December to come up with a suitable new owner for the Coyotes.

Suitable for the NHL, that is, which bought the franchise out of bankruptcy for $140 million and lost another $20 million or so operating it this season.

There’s still plenty of drama to come, with momentum swings that’ll make the Cup Final seem dull by comparison.

Instead of goals and hits, it’s MOU’s and lease agreements, and with all due respect to St. Vital’s Toews family, this game will have more impact on Winnipeggers than the Chicago-Philly matchup.

Because, as you’re no doubt aware, failure in Phoenix all but guarantees the big league’s return to the ’Peg, thanks to some nifty behind-the-scenes stickhandling by our own True North Sports and Entertainment’s Mark Chipman.

Getting billionaire partner David Thomson on board, then forging a tentative deal with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman where others like Jim Balsillie have failed, has to be Chipman’s best move since he fired Jean Perron and hired Randy Carlyle to guide the Moose 13 years ago.

Like the quarterback who’s driven his team down the field for the late, go-ahead touchdown, Chipman’s work is done.

All the former UND football player can do now is watch to see if the other guys pull off the miracle.

The other guys are Ice Edge Holdings, who’ve had a rocky 12 months or so pursuing their dream of becoming NHL owners.

This is the same bunch that at one point planned to take the Coyotes to Saskatoon for five games a year.

The latest news saw the city of Glendale unanimously approve a memorandum of understanding with Ice Edge Tuesday, giving the group exclusive negotiating rights for a new arena lease over the next 60 days.

If they can agree on a lease, and if the NHL and Ice Edge can then hammer out a sale agreement, and if Ice Edge’s financing is in order. the Coyotes get a new owner and stay in Arizona, at least until the next bankruptcy.

You wonder, though, when the group’s spokesman, Daryl Jones, wonders out loud about the chances of all this coming together.

Ice Edge is the Philadelphia Flyers in this game, left for dead more than once, but refusing to go away.

Until recently, Jerry Reinsdorf was the Blackhawks, not only because he owns Chicago baseball and basketball teams, but also because he was favoured to win this game.

Earlier this week, though, he walked away.

Don’t be surprised if his name resurfaces, because if this process has proven anything it’s that nothing is as it appears. Nobody is ever really out of the mix, and everything you read should be taken with a grain of salt: it could well be a negotiating tactic, carefully orchestrated as the media leak-du-jour.

Hell, we wouldn’t even be surprised if there’s a new group added to the mix before the year-end deadline.

Glendale, having spent $180 million to build its arena and needing an anchor tenant, is desperate, after all. Desperate enough to promise to underwrite losses of up to $25 million next season should the NHL continue to own the team.

You can bet Ice Edge wants a sweet deal, too, and we can only imagine how those talks will go over the next 60 days.

No need to mark that date down on your calendars, though.

In this game, deadlines are like disputed goals.

There’s always the chance of a review.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.


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