Game goes on and on

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:34 AM ET

Wondering what youíll do without hockey for the next few months?

Have no fear, fellow Manitobans, the gameís 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.

Thereís still plenty of drama to come, with momentum swings thatíll make the Cup Final seem dull by comparison.

Instead of goals and hits, itís MOUís and lease agreements, and with all due respect to St. Vitalís Toews family, this game will have more impact on Winnipeggers than the Chicago-Philly matchup.

Because, as youíre no doubt aware, failure in Phoenix all but guarantees the big leagueís return to the íPeg, thanks to some nifty behind-the-scenes stickhandling by our own True North Sports and Entertainmentís 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 Chipmanís best move since he fired Jean Perron and hired Randy Carlyle to guide the Moose 13 years ago.

Like the quarterback whoís driven his team down the field for the late, go-ahead touchdown, Chipmanís 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, whoíve 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 Edgeís 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 groupís 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.

Donít be surprised if his name resurfaces, because if this process has proven anything itís 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 wouldnít even be surprised if thereís 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.

Thereís always the chance of a review.

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


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