SBD/January 30, 2012/Franchises

Bettman Voices Optimism Over Potential Coyotes, Blues Sales

Bettman said league hopes to have Coyotes sale in place before end of this season

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman after the BOG meeting Saturday "sounded optimistic" that the Coyotes' "twisted ownership tale might finally be nearing a conclusion with an unnamed group of investors currently looking at buying the team," according to Scott Burnside of ESPN.com. Bettman said, "We hope, based on the things that are ongoing, to have the sale in place before the end of this season that would keep the team in Glendale." The league "has been tight-lipped on the identity of this group." But NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, "They're legitimate; they've been working at it for a while. They've been spending money. They've been doing due diligence. So those are all positive signs. It doesn't mean they're going to buy the franchise, so we'll see how it plays out." Burnside noted the Coyotes "will head into a third straight trade deadline period without the ownership situation being resolved." The "failure to find a new owner for the beleaguered franchise makes it impossible for GM Don Maloney to improve his playoff-hopeful team because the league has imposed a strict budget that cannot be modified." The fact that the Coyotes "remain under the stewardship of the NHL means the team is in effect competing against its own owners for a highly valued playoff berth" (ESPN.com, 1/28). Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs last week "accused the league of standing in the way of a potential sale by asking too much money for the franchise." The $170M figure "was quoted to Bettman on Saturday and he didn't correct the questioner." But Bettman said, "The mayor isn't very well-informed on the status of the transaction. With all the groups we've talked to, price has never been an issue" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 1/29).

STANDING BY: QMI AGENCY's Chris Stevenson wrote while the NHL "hasn’t given up" on keeping the Coyotes in Glendale, that "doesn’t mean the folks in Quebec City should put away their Nordiques jerseys or any of the other markets that are interested in landing an NHL team should give up hope." Kicking tires in Arizona is "one thing," buying the car "is another and that is why hopes remain high in Quebec City they can get an NHL franchise back just like Winnipeg did with great success last May." What "could be an option -- if it came to it -- would be the Coyotes playing in Le Colisee in Quebec, the former home of the Nordiques before they left for Colorado in 1995, until the new building is ready." But what "seems clear is construction would have to be started on a new building before the NHL would even consider moving to Quebec City." A league source said that playing in Le Colisee until the new building is completed "wouldn’t be the ideal situation, but could be workable" (QMI AGENCY, 1/29).

BLUES UPDATE: Bettman said that he is "optimistic that a group led by Blues minority owner Tom Stillman can soon finalize a deal to buy the club." Bettman: "We've been in regular touch with Tom and his people. I spoke to Tom last (week) and he believes that things are on track, and based on the pulse that we're taking of the transaction and the things that need to be done, we're optimistic that (the sale will be completed) hopefully in the not-too-distant future." Blues President of Hockey Operations John Davidson attended Saturday's BOG meeting and said that the update on the team "was brief." Davidson: "It was very short. They mentioned that everything with St. Louis seems to be lining up properly and all looks fine." In St. Louis, Jeremy Rutherford noted Stillman's group "will continue working to secure financing and have its economic structure meet the approval of the NHL." Stillman's investors "also need the league's blessing" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/29).

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