Daryl Jones will be attending his first Phoenix Coyotes game tomorrow night in Phoenix and he hopes he'll be at many more.
Jones is part of Ice Edge Holdings, which still wants to own the Coyotes and play some games in Saskatoon.
"We definitely continue to think that there's more opportunity for hockey in Phoenix than I think a lot of people realize," Jones said yesterday.
Ice Edge, made up of eight Canadian and U.S. businessmen, pulled out of the bidding for the Coyotes just before a court-supervised auction last month. The group said it had run out of time negotiating a new arena lease with the City of Glendale, the Phoenix suburb where the Coyotes play. Arizona bankruptcy court judge Redfield T. Baum dismissed the two remaining bids, from Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie and the NHL, but he ruled the league could change its offer to make it acceptable. The NHL has said it wants to resell the club to a local buyer.
Jones said Ice Edge recently met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman about a potential deal. The group has also reached an agreement in principle with the city on a new arena lease and it has held almost daily discussions with city officials to work out details.
"Assuming the NHL gets the team, we'd like to be in a position to try to move pretty quickly," said Jones, who will be sitting with Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs at tomorrow's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Jones said Ice Edge is also still keen to have Wayne Gretzky involved with the club. Gretzky, who is a co-owner of the Coyotes, resigned as the team's coach last month. He was not included in either Balsillie's or the NHL's plans for the team. It's not clear if Gretzky is interested in working with Ice Edge and Jones said most of the group's contacts have been with Gretzky's agent.
The only other local buyer for the Coyotes might be Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox and Bulls. He submitted a conditional offer for the club in the summer but then withdrew it. Sources familiar with the bidding doubt he is still interested in the Coyotes.
The NHL has said that if it can't find a local buyer, it will relocate the Coyotes. Jones said the league is serious about keeping the team in Phoenix. "We've never gotten one indication that they want to do anything but keep the team here," he said.
The Coyotes and the city are pushing hard to sell out Jobing.com arena for tomorrow's game against the Jackets. The city has launched White Out Week, with some stores offering discounts to patrons sporting Coyotes T-shirts. Some of the best seats in the arena have been priced at $25 (U.S.).