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Reinsdorf a step closer to owning Coyotes

by Jerry Brown
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he decided to attend Phoenix's first Stanley Cup playoff game long before he knew the Glendale City Council would vote to approve Jerry Reinsdorf's memorandum of understanding on Tuesday.

But the approval -- even with an out-clause that allows the team to leave town in five years if they continue to bleed red ink -- was perfect timing, just hours before the Coyotes met the Detroit Red Wings at sold-out Arena.

"I learned on my way to the airport (in New York) this morning that the Reinsdorf memorandum of understanding was approved. That's a terrific and very important step in this process," he said. "Obviously, more work to be done. We aren't there yet. But our hope and expectation is that all the things that need to be done, will get done."

Reinsdorf, a part-time Arizona resident who owns baseball's Chicago White Sox and the NBA's Chicago Bulls, still needs League approval, but Bettman said that was all but academic.

"I'm not anticipating any problems," Bettman said. "He's very well-known to me and to the other owners."

Bettman said the out-clause isn't a concern and gives both Reinsdorf and Coyotes fans ample time to make hockey thrive in Arizona.

"Every lease has a termination date," he said. "I think with the investment of substantial sums of money and what this franchise has been through, what (the potential owners) are saying is, 'We want to make sure it works.'

"There has been so much written about this arena being in the wrong location -- I don't believe it is. There is so much written about how this isn't a market -- I believe it is. But if you're investing tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars, you want to make sure you're right. And I think five years is an ample opportunity for his franchise to be run the right way and for the market to demonstrate on an on-going basis its support for hockey and for this franchise."

Reports have Reinsdorf's offer for the team being far less than the offer from Ice Edge Holdings -- the group whose memorandum was turned down by Glendale on Tuesday -- and less than the $140 million the NHL paid previous owner Jerry Moyes for the team. But Bettman said he's not concerned and neither are the rest of the League's owners who chipped in to rescue the team.

"My instruction from the owners is to get everything we have in and we will," he said.

On a humorous note, Bettman wanted to clear up a misconception: If the Coyotes win the Stanley Cup, he won't be (a) handing the trophy to himself, or (b) having his name scrawled on it.

"When people write that, they seem to not be thinking about the tradition. I give the cup to the (team) captain," Bettman said. "My name, (Deputy Commissioner) Bill Daly's name and the other 29 owners in this League … will not be on the Cup.

"If the Coyotes are fortunate enough to go the distance, (the inscriptions) will start with (president) Doug Moss, (GM) (Don) Maloney and the coaches, players and staff that deserve it."

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