The NHL schedule makers have created an itinerary for the 2010-11 season that includes a team based out of Winnipeg.
The schedule is a contingency plan as the future of the Phoenix Coyotes remains undecided, according to numerous media sources, including CBC Sports national reporter Teddy Katz.
A Winnipeg team would play in the Northwest Division, forcing Colorado to shift to the Pacific Division, according to Darren Ford, who has maintained a close watch on NHL dealings since launching his website, jetsowner.com, in 2003.
"They can't be sitting around just thinking about us. They need to already have it in place," he said about the NHL's contingency plan.
"Winnipeg, obviously, is very different geographically than Phoenix. That changes all 29 teams' flights and schedules," Ford added.
"If [NHL schedule makers] thought this was going to happen, it had to be in place."
The rumour mill has been running in high gear about the NHL's possible return to Winnipeg since last week, when talks to sell the financially troubled Coyotes to Chicago sports tycoon Jerry Reinsdorf fell apart.
Arizona losses mount
The NHL, which bought the team out of bankruptcy last fall, is seeking a buyer for the franchise, which has failed to turn a profit since it moved from Winnipeg — where it played as the Jets — to Arizona following the 1995-96 season.
The team lost an estimated $20 million to $25 million US this season alone.
Ice Edge Holdings, a consortium of Canadian and American business people that failed in a previous attempt to purchase the Coyotes, re-entered the picture last week after Reinsdorf backed out because the City of Glendale would not meet his demand for more than $45 million a year in subsidies.
However, negotiations broke off Monday after Ice Edge and the city couldn't agree on an arena lease deal.
There have been reports that if an owner can't be found to keep the team in Arizona, the NHL will instead move quickly to finalize a sale to Toronto-based billionaire David Thomson and Mark Chipman, chairman of Winnipeg-based True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd.
Thomson and Chipman are partners in True North, which owns the 15,000-seat MTS Centre and the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League.
Glendale has 'tough' choice
Glendale city council members will vote Tuesday evening on whether to financially backstop the Coyotes.
The NHL is asking for an unspecified amount to cover this year's losses while the sale of the team continues to be hammered out.
Watch liveGlendale city council meeting
If council votes down the request, it throws open the doors for a move out of the city. If council votes to cover the losses, there's a good chance the team will stay put for at least the next season.
Phil Lieberman, a councillor in Glendale for 19 years, says the city is already in serious financial trouble, facing a $14.7-million budget shortfall this year.
"And I'm supposed to vote to give the NHL an unlimited amount of money? If that isn't tough, I don't know what is," Lieberman said, adding that he intends to oppose the motion.
However, he thinks a majority on council will vote to fund the team for another year. Many councillors are worried about losing the $180-million investment the city made in the arena to attract the team to Glendale.
The meeting, which starts at 9 p.m. CT, can be watched live through the sidebar link.
Watchdog group threatens to file lawsuit
An Arizona watchdog group claims the city is being secretive about how it intends to get around state laws.
"Under Arizona's constitution, cities are not allowed to give subsidies to private sports owners, or any private businesses for that matter," said Carrie Ann Sitran, a lawyer with the Goldwater Institute.
'Under Arizona's constitution, cities are not allowed to give subsidies to private sports owners, or any private businesses for that matter.' —Carrie Ann Sitran, Goldwater Institute
"The fact that the city is being so secretive makes us really wonder what the city is trying to hide, especially when we know that taxpayers' dollars may be at stake."
If any public money is put on the table for the Coyotes, the Goldwater Institute will file a lawsuit, Sitran said.
Julie Frisoni, Glendale's marketing director, said the city is passionate about keeping the team.
"The Coyotes are a major business and they were really the first stepping stone in our sports and entertainment district that has been hugely successful and popular," she said. "We hosted a Super Bowl a couple of years ago."
The city will not pay for the team's losses, but will likely set up user fees to cover costs instead, Frisoni speculated.
"We are positive that we will work something out," she said.