The Canadian media was filled with reports earlier today that the bid by Chicago businessman Jerry Reinsdorf was dead, that the city of Glendale has turned back to Ice Edge Holdings and their proposal to buy the team, and that if this last minute change doesn’t work out the league has a fall-back deal in place: a deal that would see the Coyotes return to Winnipeg under the ownership of Canadian billionaire David Thomson (the 3rd Baron Thomson of Fleet).
ESPN’s coverage of the above scenario is perhaps the most complete, and includes a suggestion that the current professional hockey team in Winnipeg, the Manitoba Moose, might move to Thunder Bay, Ontario if the Coyotes were to return to Winnipeg.
However, the Arizona Republic newspaper is reporting that reports of the Reinsdorf deal collapsing are not true, but that Glendale will continue to negotiate with Reinsdorf in addition to negotiating with the Ice Edge partnership. The newspaper did not comment on the possibility of a fall-back deal being in place to move the team to Winnipeg, except to pass on what ESPN had previously reported.
In short, things are up in the air right now. It does seem likely that the possibility of the Coyotes remaining in Phoenix under the ownership of Reinsdorf remains alive, but that other scenarios are also plausible – either a sale to Ice Edge or a sale that would see the team return to Winnipeg.
Personally, I don’t have any inside information, but given what a mess the Coyotes’ ownership situation has become, I would be very surprised if reports that the league had negotiated a fall-back deal proved to be untrue. Gary Bettman has made favourable noises about Winnipeg as a possible destination for an NHL franchise in the recent past (suggesting it as a more sensible location than Hamilton) and the league would be acting in its own interest to explore all the options.