Jamison may not make deadline to buy Coyotes
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Just when it seemed like the Phoenix Coyotes would get an owner after more than three years of waiting, the ongoing saga took another turn.
For players, coaches and fans who have seen this roller coaster go up and down too many times to count, it seems almost fitting.
"I don't think this is a surprise to anybody who's been around here,'' Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.
The latest round in this ownership drama came just before it was supposed to finally end.
Former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison reached a preliminary deal to buy the franchise from the NHL last year and worked out a 20-year lease agreement with the city of Glendale worth more than $300 million. The deal was reworked in November and all Jamison had to do was complete his purchase of the team by 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
He may not be able to do it.
A league official told The Associated Press on Wednesday night that, barring a last-minute change, it was unlikely Jamison would have the money and investors in place to buy the team before the deadline with the city expires.
As of Thursday afternoon, Jamison still hadn't completed the deal to buy the team, putting his agreement with Glendale in jeopardy.
New Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers has said he will not extend the lease deal, opening up the possibility of other potential bidders to compete with Jamison to buy the team.
Amid reports that possibly two other groups were interested in buying the team and another saying Jamison had asked for an extension on his agreement with the city, what once seemed like a done deal has become complicated and convoluted. A spokeswoman for Glendale said the mayor has not received a request for an extension from Jamison.
Having been through this before, the Coyotes just keep their heads down and focus on what they can do on the ice, just as they always have. They're keeping track of the situation, to be sure, but they can't spend a lot of time thinking about it or it might affect how they play.
"Obviously, it's a frustrating time, but we have no control over it,'' Coyotes goalie Mike Smith said. "It's something we can't really solve, otherwise we'd buy the team if we could. We've just got to worry about winning hockey games and playing to the best of our abilities, and hopefully it'll work itself out.''
The ownership dilemma started in 2009, when former owner Jerry Moyes took the team into bankruptcy in a bid to sell to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, who would move the franchise to Hamilton, Ontario. The NHL vehemently opposed that plan and a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge later refused to allow the sale to go through.
With no one else stepping forward, the NHL bought the team and started running it with the intention of finding a buyer who would keep the team in Arizona.
Doing that has been a drawn-out process filled with false starts and dashed hopes.
The league thought it had an owner in place when Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer stepped forward, but his bid fell through when the conservative watchdog group Goldwater Institute inserted itself into the process and warned potential bond buyers to stay away from the Glendale offering because of a looming lawsuit.
With speculation that the Coyotes would return to Winnipeg, where the franchise relocated from in 1996, Jamison came forward as a potential buyer last year.
The NHL announced during last year's playoffs that it had a preliminary agreement to sell the team to Jamison and he later worked out a lease agreement with Glendale for Jobing.com Arena despite opposition from Goldwater.
Jamison's bid to buy the team cleared a big hurdle when Glendale voters in November's election upheld a 0.7 percent sales tax increase designed to help the city's finances. He also reworked the lease agreement with the city, setting a Jan. 31 deadline for Jamison to purchase the team from the NHL.
Now, it seems, Jamison won't hit the deadline, his chances of getting the funding perhaps hurt by the 113-day NHL lockout.
And so the wait for an owner continues.
"We'll just kind of move on with what we need to do on the ice,'' Coyotes forward Raffi Torres said. "We're not really worried with what's going on off the ice right now.''
They've had plenty of practice at it by now.