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Like it or not, NHL-Winnipeg saga could be drawn out

TSN.ca Staff

3/7/2011 9:11:39 PM

The National Hockey League isn't about to announce an official return to Winnipeg yet, but is there enough evidence to suggest that it could be on the horizon?

The drama over the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes took another twist over the weekend, as reports indicated that the City of Glendale is getting ready to file a lawsuit against the Goldwater Institute.

While it looks like another obstacle in Glendale's efforts to put the team in the hands of Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer, it could also mean another step towards a white flag for the league - at least according to the Winnipeg media.

"There will not be any announcement at Portage and Main this week to reveal news that the NHL is returning to Winnipeg," explained Winnipeg Free Press sports columnist Gary Lawless on Monday. "There is, however, a chance that the NHL will determine it has exhausted all avenues to keep the Phoenix Coyotes in Arizona and begin to look at other options."

Even if that happens, Lawless writes, there's also the issue of whether or not the league could work out an agreement with True North and whether the 29 other teams would give their stamp of approval. 

Lawless adds that depending on whose reports you're reading, the NHL could be on the verge of either closing the sale with Hulsizer or calling it dead.

"Any announcement, if one is to come at all as a result of a collapsed sale of the Coyotes to Matthew Hulsizer, would be weeks or months away," he stated.

"There's a process that would need to be executed and it requires work and time and lawyers and money. Chipman's True North Sports and Entertainment has all of the above, but the machine has to be put into action before it can spit out an NHL franchise for the city of Winnipeg and we're unsure if it's even turned on or perhaps quietly idling."

For now, the pressing question in Glendale is whether or not the NHL can broker a deal for a financial institution to take on the bond issue. And as TSN's Darren Dreger wrote in Monday's Dreger Report, that's not even a slam dunk - at least not for this coming week.

Another factor to be taken into consideration is the strength of the NHL's resolve.

Lawless, like many others covering the Coyotes-Winnipeg saga, points out that Commissioner Gary Bettman 'remains tied to Phoenix at this point' and is looking at every last possibility to keep the team at Glendale's Jobing.com Arena.

"He's been doing that for more than two years, so don't expect him to suddenly quit," wrote Lawless. "Lawsuits are beginning to stack up while Bettman spins his Rolodex looking for risk-taking financiers."

So which way will the Coyotes-Winnipeg saga go? Time will tell sooner than later. Until then, TSN's Jets Meter is resting.