Bidder has ice booked in Saskatoon

 

A group seeking to buy the Phoenix Coyotes has reserved ice in Saskatoon this winter.

 
 
 

A group seeking to buy the Phoenix Coyotes has reserved ice in Saskatoon this winter.

Ice Edge Holdings -- which submitted a $150-million offer for the NHL team last week -- recently placed holds on five dates at Credit Union Centre with the intention of staging five regular-season games here.

Even if Ice Edge wins a Sept. 10 auction for the Coyotes, the NHL would still have to ratify the Saskatoon schedule, which sees Phoenix playing the Montreal Canadiens (Nov. 12), Columbus Blue Jackets (Dec. 21), Nashville Predators (Jan. 21), Edmonton Oilers (Feb. 8) and St. Louis Blues (March 2).

The plan is intended to boost gate revenues for the cash-strapped Coyotes, but an Ice Edge spokesman insisted Monday that his group is not eyeing Saskatchewan as a future home for the franchise.

"Our focus to play NHL hockey long-term in Phoenix and we're in the middle of finalizing the lease (at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale)," Ice Edge partner Daryl Jones said Monday from Arizona. "While we want to bring a limited number of games to a great hockey city like Saskatoon, our long-term commitment is to Phoenix and Glendale."

Ice Edge proposed the idea of neutral-site games more than a month ago. Jones previously described Saskatoon and Halifax as the frontrunners for those games, but Monday he said that his group has not reserved Canadian ice anywhere other than CUC.

"We are still in discussions with other cities, but our preference would be Saskatoon."

The five Saskatoon dates proposed by Ice Edge do not conflict with any existing bookings, said CUC events manager Scott Ford. He noted, though, that "those games don't exist" until Ice Edge secures ownership and NHL approval.

"They're just like anybody else," said Ford. "We get tons of concerts that hold dates and the dates are held until something challenges the dates."

The Coyotes' opponents would also have to agree to alter their travel plans. When considering potential teams for the Saskatoon games, Ice Edge wanted to have some Canadian content, said Jones, but travel schedules largely dictated which teams were available.

Saskatoon staged four NHL regular-season games during the early 1990s when teams played neutral-site games as part of their schedules. More recently, the city played host to a 2007 exhibition game between the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers. The New York Islanders are scheduled to stage their training camp here next month, and the agenda includes pre-season games against the Flames (Sept. 19) and Oilers (Sept. 20) at CUC.

Recent renovations have increased the building's seating capacity to 15,195.

"If we get the team and get approved, next year we can be a little more strategic about it," said Jones. "Ideally, what we'd like to do is sit down with the (WHL's Saskatoon) Blades at the start of the year, and with Credit Union Centre, to figure out what teams people in Saskatoon would most like to see, and then arrange the schedule in that regard.

"This year, if it happens, that's obviously not a reality."

In addition to the Ice Edge bid, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix is considering a $140-million offer from the NHL, and a $212.5-million bid from Canadian BlackBerry billioinaire Jim Balsillie.

 
 
 
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