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Alan Snel

Arizona Coyotes may move to Las Vegas

12 June 2015

How does a new local NHL team called the Las Vegas Coyotes sound to you?

Talk of an existing National Hockey League team — not a new one — in Las Vegas heated up Thursday after the Glendale City Council in suburban Phoenix voted Wednesday to kill its arena agreement with the Arizona Coyotes. That decision left the beleaguered, one-time bankrupt Coyotes franchise without home ice and its future in the air.

The Glendale Council vote triggered talk that the Coyotes would sue the city of Glendale for $200 million amid allegations by the team that the city is doing nothing more than political grandstanding. Glendale elected officials voided the 15-year arena deal, citing a conflict-of-interest statute because a former city attorney took a job with the Coyotes.

Meanwhile 300 miles to the north in Las Vegas, fans wondered whether the NHL might want to have the Coyotes sold and moved to Las Vegas, where a prospective new hockey team owner has 13,300 season ticket commitments and a lease agreement with a new $375 million, privately financed arena.

“That was my reaction. They don’t have an arena. We do,” said Las Vegas hockey fan Tracy Fellenstein, a hospital nurse who bought one season ticket deposit. ”Whether Mr. Foley wants to do an expansion team or bring the Coyotes, that would be fine with me.”

Title insurance businessman and possible NHL team owner Bill Foley of Las Vegas has collected more than 13,000 ticket deposits toward starting a new NHL team and has already cut a deal with the partnership of MGM Resorts International and Anschutz Entertainment Group to have that expansion team play in the new MGM-AEG arena being built behind New York-New York on the Strip. Foley even picked the team colors — black, gray and gold, inspired by the colors of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Foley is a West Pointer.

Foley’s team partners are the Maloof brothers of Las Vegas, who used to own the NBA Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings.

Las Vegas hockey fans include Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, who put down a deposit for two season tickets.

“I’m sure Mr. Foley is aware of the (Coyotes arena situation) and is exploring his options,” Sisolak said Thursday. “This gives Mr. Foley and the Maloofs more flexibility.”

Fellenstein said she would like Foley to re-brand the Coyotes if he bought the team.

“That would get rid of the old stigma and bad luck. I don’t want any of that,” Fellenstein said.

While the new Las Vegas arena doesn’t open until April, MGM Resorts could conceivably be asked to rent its MGM Grand Garden Arena to house a hockey team for the 2015-16 season as a one-season bridge to the new arena, which seats 17,500 for hockey. Pre-season NHL games have been played at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, as recently as October 2014.

If the Coyotes were sold to Foley, it would be for a lot less than the $500 million expansion fee that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has floated recently.

Foley, who has said in the past that he would like to start a new NHL team and not buy an existing franchise, declined to comment Thursday.

The National Hockey League did release a statement, indicating the league backs the Coyotes’ effort to remain at its home venue, which is the Gila River Arena.

“The National Hockey League stands by, and will fully support, the Arizona Coyotes in their efforts to vindicate their contractual rights in response to last night’s outrageous and irresponsible action by the city of Glendale,” according to the statement sent via e-mail by NHL spokesman Frank Brown. “We continue to proceed on the basis that the Coyotes will remain in Glendale and will be playing their home games at Gila River Arena.”

MGM and AEG officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The Coyotes franchise has been a problem for the NHL for years. The team, which originated as the Winnipeg Jets in the old World Hockey Association in 1971, moved to Phoenix in 1996. But by 2009, former Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes declared bankruptcy and the NHL took over the franchise. Moyes had attempted to sell the team to a Canadian businessman who wanted to move the franchise to Hamilton, Ontario, but the NHL legally blocked that move.

After several ownership bids to buy the Coyotes fell through, the team was ultimately sold to IceArizona Acquisition Co. LLC. in August 2013.

Discussion about Foley’s bid for a franchise in Las Vegas and the Coyotes arena situation are expected to be at the fore later this month when the NHL Board of Governors meets in Las Vegas on June 24. The NHL’s ruling board is not expected to vote this month on granting Foley and Las Vegas a franchise, but there could be a vote on Las Vegas drawing a team in September.
Arizona Coyotes may move to Las Vegas is republished from