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NHL working on sending Coyotes to Winnipeg?

Image (1) Yotes4-thumb-250x183-8085.jpg for post 555

A story that at first seemed to be nothing but conjecture and complete speculation has turned into something much, much more substantial. The Phoenix Business Journal is reporting that, according to unnamed sources, the NHL is working with Toronto Billionaire David Thomson to possibly send the Phoenix Coyotes franchise back to Winnipeg.

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 Atlanta Thrashers, 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 report states that the NHL is still actively pushing to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix. Ice Edge Holdings is having issues in financing a deal to purchase the franchise, and the NHL is also working with Jerry Reinsdorf to purchase the team if the Ice Edge deal falls through. The NHL has a self-imposed date of June 2010 to reach a deal to keep the team in Phoenix.

This is the NHL finding a backup plan to sell the team, if the first two options fall through. Although the league desperately wants to keep the team in Phoenix, if the finances of a deal can’t be worked out they’ll have to sell the team to the next best option. Jim Balsillie lost the chance to purchase the team when the NHL refused to approve a sale, and moving the team back to Winnipeg in a deal that would solve a number of the financial issues the franchise is facing makes sense.

It’s unfortunate it’s come to this; the Phoenix Coyotes have qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and hockey fans in Arizona once again have a decent team to cheer for. Arena is sold out each night now, and the fans are now starting to show up again. Just when hockey gets its claws dug in out in the desert, it seems there’s a good chance the team will take off and back north.

The Coyotes lost an incredible amount of money since the franchise moved to Phoenix, but that is attributed more to more management and an incredibly debilitating lease with the city of Glendale than anything to do with hockey in the south.

This is still just a simple report, coming from unnamed sources that are ‘close to the situation’. There’s nothing that says this is a done deal, and even if it was it still seems to be the third option for the NHL.