Group interested in Coyotes sees big role for Gretzky
One of the groups interested in keeping the Phoenix Coyotes in Arizona has offered some unique ideas on how it would proceed with the club.
In a letter of intent submitted Friday to Arizona bankruptcy judge Redfield T. Baum, Ice Edge Holdings said that Wayne Gretzky would play a significant role with the Coyotes under its ownership.
"Ice Edge is seeking to solidify the Team's relationship with its managing partner and head coach, Wayne Gretzky, and intends to offer Mr. Gretzky the opportunity to participate … as a major shareholder of the newly constituted Coyotes franchise," the group said in its filing.
The group also said it would offer Gretzky a "long-term coaching contract with lucrative playoff incentives," an interesting proposition given that it has been revealed during the Coyotes ownership saga that the hockey legend earned $8 million US for guiding the club, which has not made the playoffs in his four seasons at the helm.
The letter of intent also said that the presence of the all-time NHL scoring leader hasn't been fully maximized in the club's dealings with potential corporate sponsors.
It's in sharp contrast to the bid for the Coyotes officially submitted by Friday's deadline by a group led by Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
The Reinsdorf bid details the assumption of 170 contracts, including those of Coyotes players and management. Conspicuously absent from the list is Gretzky.
More RIM-related interest
The Ice Edge group includes Coyotes minority owner John Breslow among its investors. One of the key figures is Anthony LeBlanc, a former Research in Motion executive.
The future of the club is in limbo after the NHL balked at a play by Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes to facilitate a bankruptcy sale for $212.5 million to PSE Sports and Entertainment, a group headed by RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie.
Balsillie, in his third try at owning an NHL club, is interested on the condition that he can relocate the franchise to Hamilton, Ont.
The NHL has submitted to the court that only a pro sports league can determine the location of its franchises and that owners must be approved by the league's board of governors.
Balsillie's attorney, Richard Rodier, told the Arizona Republic on the weekend that PSE had never communicated with LeBlanc about the Coyotes, deeming it a coincidence.
The Coyotes have lost money in the desert since moving from Winnipeg in 1996.
The City of Glendale, where the Coyotes play, has vowed that anyone relocating the club would be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars for breaking the lease at Jobing.com Arena.
It is unlikely that Glendale officials would be thrilled with perhaps the most unusual part of the Ice Edge letter of intent, especially for a story that has evoked strong opinions on where NHL hockey should be played.
'Canadian sister city' games
Ice Edge said it would try to seek NHL board of governors approval "to play a limited number of home games a year in a chosen Canadian sister city."
It did not indicate which Canadian city or cities would be considered for the idea, which almost certainly wouldn't fly with league owners, and probably not the players' union.
Reinsdorf has submitted a $148 million US bid for the Coyotes, although those from the Moyes camp have stated the figure is inflated and includes no infusion of cash.
Ice Edge, which did not submit an official bid, said it would bid up to $150 million. The group said it had only begun exploring the possibility of buying the Coyotes recently, and would file a bid shortly.
An auction for bidders keeping the team in Arizona is scheduled for Aug. 5, provided the judge finds the bids satisfactorily meet the demands of the team's creditors.
If not, it is conceivable that bids that would seek to relocate the franchise would be allowed.
With files from The Associated Press