With a potential sale of the Phoenix Coyotes held up until the end of the year, hockey fans in Winnipeg may now be turning their hopeful gaze towards Atlanta, but according to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, the league has not given up on keeping the franchise in Atlanta.
"We've been working with local ownership for quite a long time now, in terms of trying to find a new local ownership in that market," Daly told Jim Tatti and Scott MacArthur on TSN Radio's Game Night on Thursday. "Luckily, that has gone largely under the radar screen, but the fact of the matter is that it has been transpiring.
"We believe what we say, which is that we're committed to the markets in which we put our franchises. We should make all reasonable efforts to keep franchises there, but there comes a point in time where if those efforts aren't successful, you move on."
In a 5-2 vote Tuesday night, the City of Glendale voted to buy itself another season of NHL hockey by promising to commit $25 million to the Coyotes' losses if the team can't find a buyer by the end of the 2011-12 season.
"Atlanta is in a difficult situation in terms of the state of its local business. In part, that's been due to an ownership dispute and struggle that has gone on for many years," said Daly.
"Certainly, the current ownership in Atlanta wants to transition that ownership, sell that club and they've been looking for a number of years now to sell to a local buyer. At this point they've been unsuccessful in that process, but I think it's fair to say that remains the number one goal," he added.
When asked how long the NHL is willing to allow the Atlanta situation to continue in its current state, Daly responded by saying, "That's the right question, but it's not a question I'm in a position to answer right now."