Return to Winnipeg would be fair: Bettman

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:47 AM ET

The only consolation prize for Winnipeg out of last night’s developments regarding the Phoenix Coyotes was the fact that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman thinks it fair for the team to return to its roots if the need ever arises.

While he reiterated the NHL has no interest in moving the Coyotes or any other franchise, Bettman at least acknowledged Winnipeg would get strong consideration if the Coyotes can no longer be sustained in Arizona.

“If we have to move the Coyotes, obviously there is an equitable fairness point that if the team has to go somewhere certainly the place it came from should be given strong consideration,” Bettman told CBC’s Scott Oake. “But to go beyond that right now, to confirm which options we are considering, I don’t want to raise anybody’s expectations because the thing we’ve been consistent about going back years is we try not to move franchises if we can avoid it.”

While it has been widely reported that the NHL had a contingency plan to sell the Coyotes to True North Sports and Entertainment’s Mark Chipman and his partner David Thomson if things didn’t work out in Phoenix, Bettman said there has been no confirmation that there is even an NHL ready building and owner in Winnipeg.

He said the NHL has been concentrating solely on keeping the team in Phoenix, working out a complicated deal with Glendale City Council to make it happen. They’ve also kept all doors open with potential owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Ice Edge Holdings.

“We can’t be in a situation where it all falls apart in July or August and then we get stuck for another year,” Bettman said. “We are not asking them to fund the losses as an absolute. We are saying “if you don’t do what you say you are going to do so these clubs can be sold, then if we have to say another year we want the losses to be funded. We can’t allow ourselves to be stuck in an untenable situation.”

Shortly after Bettman spoke on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, Glendale city council voted 7-0 to meet the NHL’s conditions and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly later told reporters the team will be staying in Phoenix.

“Congrats coyotes fans ... All joking aside, we hope it is us, but this is an incredible turn of events,” Ice Edge spokesman Daryl Jones said through Twitter. “You deserve it.”

Jones said Ice Edge is still in the mix to own the team despite the fact they backed away on Monday because they couldn’t reach an exclusivity agreement with the City of Glendale.

“Ice Edge supports Reinsdorf as the Ice Edge backup plan,” he said through Twitter. “Ice Edge supports Winnipeg as the back up plan to the back up plan.”


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