Ice Edge chief operating officer Daryl Jones attended the Phoenix Coyotes' home opener Saturday night and said his group is still discussing lease options with Glendale officials with an eye toward reviving its bid for the struggling NHL club.

"Our intention is to buy the team," Jones told The Associated Press. "I think people are sort of not sure whether we're serious, just because maybe they don't know a whole lot about us. But the fact that we had a $10 million deposit, the fact that we've been in this for three or four months, spending the money you need to be involved."


Fans at Arena wear white to celebrate the return of the Coyotes on Saturday. ((Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press))

Jones, a Connecticut-based investor, heads a group of Canadian and American business people interested in buying the team and keeping it in Arizona, although they hope to play a handful of home games in Saskatoon.

Ice Edge was believed to be offering around $150 million US for the club but the group never got to the stage of an official bid and pulled out before an auction last month.

Coyotes drop home opener

Rick Nash and R.J. Umberger scored goals and Mathieu Garon stopped all 36 shots as Columbus spoiled the home opener for Phoenix at Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

Nash scored an even-strength goal midway through the first period and Umberger iced the game with an empty-netter with 17 seconds left in the 2-0 game.

The Coyotes slashed prices to $25 US for prime tickets in the lower bowl, a reduction of more than $150 for some seats. They also cut prices to $15 in the upper deck, where tickets normally range $15-$40.

The result was a rare sellout of 17,561. Fans received white T-shirts as team officials tried to create a "whiteout" in the crowd. But the emotion in the building didn't help the Coyotes. Nash's early goal took the crowd out of the game.

Bankruptcy court judge Redfield T. Baum rejected the only remaining bids for the team — by Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie and the NHL. Baum threw out Balsillie's bid but left the door open for the league to purchase the franchise if it amends its offer to treat Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes and ex-coach Wayne Gretzky more favourably as creditors.

The NHL wants to re-sell the franchise to a local buyer, and that's where Ice Edge hopes to step in.

The process has dragged on since Moyes filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 5 but Jones hopes it will move quickly if the NHL can win control of the team in court.

"The ideal scenario, I think, is that somebody buys the team quickly," Jones said. "Because if not, I think extended uncertainty is just going to lead to poor ticket sales and basically a lot of losses on the business side."

The Coyotes sold out Saturday night's home opener against Columbus by drastically reducing ticket prices throughout the arena.

The team has lost at least $30 million in each of the last three seasons and more than $300 million since moving from Winnipeg in 1996. Jones said he expects another year or two in the red but thinks the team can make money with better management.

"I think a lot of it has to do with professional management," he said. "Expenses and revenues were really mismatched here. But you have to have a long-term strategy and build up a base of fans. My sense is that that really hasn't happened here."

Jones said Ice Edge is committed to playing some Coyotes home games in Saskatoon, even though that has raised concerns among some fans in Glendale.

"We want to make sure that we do it in a way that it doesn't hurt the fan base here and doesn't send the wrong message to the fan base here, because you don't want the fan base here to think that's a step to moving the team," Jones said. "You want them to think that's just part of expanding a broader fan base."

Jones brushed off a hypothetical question about how much money Ice Edge would accept losing before it would consider relocating.

"We're doing this because we think we can make it work, so we're not even contemplating the idea of moving the team in five years, 10 years," Jones said. "As investors, if we're not making money in five or seven years, I think we're going to have to look and think hard at our plan.

"We haven't even talked to the city about the idea of the ability to move the team at some point in the future because we don't want to," Jones said. "That's no way to enter into a partnership."

Ice Edge's original bid had called for Gretzky to coach the team at a reduced salary, but Gretzky quit before the season opened. Jones said the group would still like to have Gretzky involved, although he didn't mention a specific role.

"From our perspective, there's always going to be a place for '99' with Ice Edge," he said.