Anthony LeBlanc and the group of businessmen once known as Ice Edge Holdings LLC are back in the Phoenix hockey picture.
Only this time, it is not to make an ownership bid on the financially moribund Phoenix Coyotes, but a bid to manage Jobing.com Arena in suburban Glendale, Ariz., and try to bring in a minor-league hockey team if the Coyotes move to another city this summer.
On March. 1, LeBlanc sent an e-mail message to Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs, city attorney Craig Tindall and the members of city council. It was prompted by Scruggs's public musings that the city needs a "Plan B" if the NHL-owned Coyotes leave.
LeBlanc said his group, now known as Lakehead Yale Sports Holdings LLC, is willing to sign a long-term contract to manage the arena, try to find a minor-league team as a tenant and work to increase the events at the facility if the NHL decides to move the Coyotes.
LeBlanc wrote in the e-mail that he received approval from the NHL to "pursue these discussions in more detail."
However, there appears to be a divide between city manager Ed Beasley and Scruggs.
Beasley did not want Scruggs to bring LeBlanc's proposal to city council, saying in an e-mail message to the mayor that NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told him no such approval was granted. Beasley also argued a process needs to be developed for any alternative plan and a new management contract for the arena should go through competitive bids.
However, a source said the matter was discussed March 6 at an executive session of council, which is not open to the public, and set aside because the Coyotes situation is not resolved.
Glendale spokeswoman Julie Frisoni said the city is still working with the NHL to keep the Coyotes in place. She noted executive council sessions are confidential but "discussions concerning the future of the arena's management have been occurring for some time."
As for Lakehead Yale Sports' position, LeBlanc said there was a partial misunderstanding about approval from the NHL. He said Daly did not tell him to proceed with his plan, only that the league would not object if it eventually decides the Coyotes have to move.
In an e-mail message, Daly said the NHL may come to support a Plan B like LeBlanc's but only if a point is reached where "it becomes necessary to explore other opportunities."
The NHL is still "doing everything possible" to find a new owner for the Coyotes, Daly added.
LeBlanc is willing to wait until the situation is resolved before pursuing an arena-management contract. He said he discussed the offer with Tindall but has not received an official response.
"We like Glendale, like the building and see an opportunity," said LeBlanc, who added the ball is now in the city's court. "If they come to us and say we'd like you to help, then we can talk."
In LeBlanc's proposal, his company would make its money from the management fee for operating Jobing.com Arena and any profit generated by a minor-league team. That fee could be between $5-million and $10-million per year, which is much cheaper than the $25-million (U.S.) Glendale council is considering paying the NHL for arena management if the Coyotes stay for another season.
LeBlanc said he is also pursuing an AHL or ECHL franchise for his hometown of Thunder Bay.