NHL

Bettman: Coyotes could go on hiatus

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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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CHICAGO

The Phoenix Coyotes have been linked to several cities for relocation.

There could be another possibility if the City of Glendale and an ownership group can't come to an agreement: going dark for the 2013-2014 season.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman didn’t deny that the Coyotes — a franchise that has been under league control for three years — could go on hiatus.

“There are a myriad of options,” Bettman told reporters before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at United Center on Wednesday. “Obviously we'll have lots of choices, options and decisions. At the time, if we get to that point, and hopefully we won't, then we'll focus on which one is the best.”

Could Bettman be bluffing? Possibly, but the league appears to have no interest in running the team another season.

Bettman denied there is a strict deadline to come to an agreement with a new owner along with the City of Glendale, which owns Jobing.com Arena. But Bettman mentioned a couple of important dates upcoming: a Glendale city council meeting on June 25 and the league’s Board of Governors meeting on June. 27

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“Obviously, we're getting to the point where some decisions are going to have to be made both by the City of Glendale and by us,” Bettman said. “I haven't set a deadline, but time is getting shorter.”

The league is pressing Renaissance Sports and Entertainment — the most recent ownership group looking to purchase the franchise and keep it in Glendale — to come to deal on a new lease agreement with the city in short order, FOX Sports Arizona’s Craig Morgan reported on Monday.

If the two sides can come to a new deal, the league appears willing to allow the council to vote on agreement in July.

“The puck is in the City of Glendale’s end,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Billy Daly said.

Time is short for a deal to get done, for a few reasons. First, the lockout stretched the postseason a couple weeks longer than in past seasons. The result is a shorter offseason. Also complicating next season’s schedule is a dramatic realignment along with the possibility of shutting down next season for a couple weeks due to 2014 Winter Games in Russia, an issue that is still not resolved.

Daly said it remains “possible” that the Coyotes will relocate. Neither Bettman nor Daly mentioned where the Coyotes could land up if a new agreement can’t be worked out, but Seattle and Quebec City appear to be the leading candidates to land the franchise.

“There are a number of markets that have been expressing interest to us over the years,” Bettman said. “The phone keeps ringing more regularly the longer that the Coyotes situation stays unresolved. Based on the dates we just happened to talk about with the previous question, it's causing the phone to ring even more.”

The Coyotes are the lone major tenant in Glendale and Bettman more than just hinted filling those 41 home dates during the regular season would be all but impossible.

“I think it's likely to get boarded up because they're not going to have enough events to sustain it,” Bettman said. “I worry about what's going to happen to Westgate and all the businesses and people that are employed there. I worry about the impact it will have on the football stadium that may not be ideal anymore.”

Tagged: Coyotes

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