The National Hockey League currently owns the Phoenix Coyotes, and it appears as though their search for a new owner could be coming to a close. Unfortunately for fans in Arizona, that potential owner could be ready to take the team back to Canada.
According to the Phoenix Business Journal, the NHL has a 'deal in principle' with Canadian billionaire David Thomson and a Winnipeg-based group that would see the end of the Coyotes tenure in the desert.
Two sources with knowledge of the Coyotes finances and ownership said a deal between Thomson and the NHL has been completed in principle and could have the Coyotes back in Winnipeg next season if necessary. Thomson, also considered a possible buyer of the, is a partner in True North and chairman of Thomson Reuters. True North owns the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League and MTS Centre in Winnipeg, which seats 15,100.
The sources said, however, the NHL still wants to work out a deal to keep the Coyotes in the Phoenix market. The league bought the Coyotes, still in Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, for $140 million in October fending off a $242 million bid by Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie, who wanted to move the team to Hamilton, Ontario.
It should be noted, though, that the article also states that the NHL would still prefer to keep the Coyotes in Glendale, Arizona, but that the NHL has set a deadline of June 2010 to have a local owner in place before looking to groups that would potentially move the team.
Ice Edge Holdings, a group that would keep the team in Glendale, has been seen as the front runner to land the club for some time now, but the report suggests that they are running into financing trouble. If a deal can be completed with Ice Edge, there's really no doubt that the NHL would sell to them before selling to a group that would relocate the team.
The Coyotes have lost barrels of money in their time in Phoenix, but this news comes at a time when the team is playing their best hockey in years; the Coyotes have wrapped up a playoff spot and attendance is up. It remains to be seen how this news will play out, of course, but it couldn't come at a worse time for a franchise trying to get fans back and excited about playoff hockey.