Pro or major junior hockey still on LeBlanc's radar


and The Associated Press
Ice Edge Holdings CEO Anthony LeBlanc is “encouraged” by the progress on Thunder Bay’s proposed event centre, and assured Wednesday the company remains ready to bring a professional hockey team to the region.
“(Company chairman Keith McCullough) and I have been following the developments in regards to the event centre and are encouraged by the fact that council voted Monday to endorse the downtown location and move on to Phase 3 of the feasibility study,” LeBlanc said via email on Wednesday, while he traveled to Ottawa from Phoenix, Ariz.
“We continue to be ready to bring a professional hockey team to the region.”
The $106-million event centre is still not a guarantee — Phase 3 includes more information gathering, and the city has said it won’t go forward unless federal and provincial funding can be secured.
LeBlanc said Ice Edge has had discussions over the past year about bringing a new high-level team to the city prior to the opening of an event centre.
The plan was, he said, for the team to play out of the Fort William Gardens in the short term. However, he added, that “doesn’t appear that is feasible due to the current lease in place.”
The Gardens is the home ice of the Lakehead University Thunderwolves men’s hockey team.
LeBlanc has not provided any specifics about the team his group intends to bring to the city. He’s said previously, though, that “Ice Edge has had meetings with the AHL, ECHL and OHL.”
Meanwhile in Glendale, Ariz., the Phoenix Coyotes have taken a major step toward securing an owner.
All that’s left is one last hurdle.
Glendale’s city council voted late Tuesday night in favour of a reworked, $320 million arena management deal with Greg Jamison, clearing the way for the former San Jose Sharks CEO to complete his purchase of the team from the NHL.
“The affirmative vote by the Glendale city council is an important step toward the realization of a positive ownership resolution for the Coyotes and their fans,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement Wednesday. “The National Hockey League looks forward to working with Greg Jamison to complete the sale process as expeditiously as possible.”
The city council approved a 20-year, $324 million deal for Arena in June, but, faced with growing financial constraints, city leaders sought to renegotiate the deal.
The council voted 4-2 in favour of the new deal, which cuts back Glendale’s payments in the first five years, gives Jamison incentives to bring in more non-hockey events and issues penalties if there is an NHL lockout.
The current lockout is in its 11th week and has wiped out more than 400 regular-season games, along with the NHL All-Star game.
Jamison, who had LeBlanc in attendance with him at the council meeting, said after the vote that he fully expects to have the deal done in time.
The new arena deal requires Jamison to complete his purchase of the team from the NHL by Jan. 21, 2013.
“I know they (city leaders) want closure very badly and so do I and the rest of the group,” Jamison said after the meeting Tuesday night. “We’re confident we can get there.”
The Coyotes have been run by the NHL the past three seasons, since former owner Jerry Moyes took the team into bankruptcy in 2009. The team still managed to be successful on the ice despite financial limitations, reaching the playoffs all three years, including the franchise’s first trip to the Western Conference finals in 2011-12.
With the council agreeing to the reworked arena agreement, Jamison must now complete his deal with the NHL and gain approval from the league’s board of governors.
“We’re here, we’re excited about some NHL hockey, we’re looking forward to the lockout being over and we’re also looking forward to the future,” Jamison said.
“We believe strongly not only in the product, we believe strongly in the community, we believe strongly in the Valley and we think basically this a good place to be, a good place to have a team and the future looks bright.”