Coyotes games pitched for Halifax, Saskatoon
Group considering 5-game run for NHL franchise
A Toronto-based group is trying to sweeten its $150-million US bid for the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes with the promise that five regular-season games would be played in a Canadian city, either Halifax or Saskatoon.
"We think there's an appetite for it," Daryl Jones, a partner with Ice Edge Holdings, told CBC News Monday.
Jones said Ice Edge submitted a letter of intent to the NHL on Friday and must hand in a purchase agreement for the Coyotes by Aug. 5, the day the team will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
The prospect of hosting Coyotes games has people in both cities buzzing, although few are holding out hope that a permanently based NHL franchise will follow.
"We're not, obviously, at that level right now of hosting an NHL team," said Ferguson, acting president and CEO of Trade Centre Ltd., which runs the Halifax Metro Centre. "We have talked about it, in the future — as to whether or not we would be [at that level] 10 or 15 years down the road."
Francis said talks have been underway with Ice Edge Holdings for a couple of weeks to pave the way for a few regular season games.
"Right now the prospect is really to handle five regular-season games, which I think the market could really support."
Jones said there are no plans to move the Coyotes to Canada. He said the team continues to pull regular crowds of 14,000 at its 17,000-seater home games in Phoenix, although the financial crisis is hurting revenues.
"Maybe they don't need 41 games a year," said Jones, referring the usual number of homes games each NHL teams plays in the regular season.
Saskatoon is no stranger to the prospect of getting an NHL franchise.
The St. Louis Blues were almost moved to the city in the early 1980s, but the deal was blocked by the NHL.
Halifax and Saskatoon have hosted pre-season NHL games in the past.
A report in the Globe and Mail said Ice Edge favours Saskatoon and its 11,300-seat Credit Union Centre for the five-game Coyotes run, although Jones would not confirm that.
The Halifax Metro Centre has 10,500 seats.
Ferguson said the fact Halifax is a small city with smaller facilities could be an advantage because it's not a threat to fans in Phoenix or larger Canadian cities with NHL teams.
He said the plan would be to fill every seat at the Metro Centre for every Coyotes game.
"We'd like to see some tickets that are available in the $45 range," he said. "But we still need a little more work on our business plan."
Ice Edge is expected to present what it calls its "grassroots Canadian hockey strategy" to the executive board of the NHL this week.
The Coyotes filed for bankruptcy protection two months ago.
Jim Balsillie, co-chief executive of Research In Motion, also has made a bid for the Coyotes, and wants to move the team to Hamilton.
Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago's Bulls and White Sox sports teams, has offered $148 million US for the Coyotes.