According to the Phoenix Business Journal, the Coyotes — who recently clinched their first playoff berth in eight years — could be on their way back to Winnipeg as early as next season. Phoenix has been home to the Coyotes for the last 14 years after the Winnipeg Jets relocated to the Southwest in 1996, but over $300 million in debts and a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing could have a return to Canada in the cards.
Phoenix is currently owned by the NHL, which purchased the team for $140 million in October in an effort to keep the team in Arizona. A $242 million offer by Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie was fended off by the league, as Balsillie planned to move the team to Hamilton, Ontario.
The NHL is currently working with Ice Edge Holdings and Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf in two separate deals to keep the Coyotes in the desert. Ice Edge Holdings appears to be in prime position to acquire the team, but financing issues are reportedly holding it up, leading the NHL to explore other options.
Toronto billionaire David Thomson and Winnipeg-based True North Sports and Entertainment look to be that crutch for the league, though that would result in the team heading back to Winnipeg. Thomson is reportedly also interested in purchasing the Thrashers if the deal for the Coyotes — allegedly completed in principle — goes to one of the U.S.-based buyers. With True North already owning MTS Centre in Winnipeg, a deal with Thomson could see the team on the move in just a few months.
While the NHL’s main sticking point seems to be a desire to keep the team in Arizona, the proposed deal with Ice Edge Holdings would see some of the Coyotes games played in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, similar to the Buffalo Bills’ once-a-year stopover in Toronto.
The NHL may want the Coyotes to stay in Phoenix, but sometimes, hockey just wants to go home.
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