Reports surface of new suitor for Coyotes

When Greg Jamison failed to meet a Thursday deadline to purchase the Coyotes under the old lease agreement with the City of Glendale, it sent shock waves through the local hockey community. Were the Coyotes back at square one in their quest for stable ownership that would keep the team in the Valley?

Maybe not. City Councilman Gary Sherwood told The Arizona Republic on Thursday that while Jamison was in negotiations with the NHL, a new, deep-pocketed investor emerged who demanded a controlling interest. Multiple reports suggest that investor might have a Calgary background.

One man who fits the profile is Portland Winterhawks owner and Calgary oil mogul Bill Gallacher. Two sources told FOX Sports Arizona that he could be part of a group in the running to purchase the team on a fast track.

According to his bio, Gallacher is the president of Avenir Capital Corporation, a private equity firm that invests in new and existing junior companies. An engineer by profession, Gallacher was an entrepreneur in the oil patch and brings experience in the financial markets and corporate structuring. Gallacher sits on the board of directors of Avenir Diversified Income Trust, Athabasca Oil Sands Corp., Black Diamond Income Fund, Maxim Power Corp., Mahalo Energy Ltd. and Great Plains Exploration.

He is also a lifelong hockey fan who spends most of his time in the Calgary area and owns season tickets for both the NHL’s Calgary Flames and the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen. Gallacher is also a part owner of the British Columbia Hockey League’s Nanaimo Clippers.

Gallacher has been a bridesmaid in his quest to own an NHL team on several occasions, most recently with the Dallas Stars and the New Jersey Devils.

The Winterhawks play in the WHL. Since taking over the club in 2008, Gallacher has hired a staff heavy on NHL experience, including long-time NHL executive Doug Piper as the team’s president, 10-year NHL assistant coach Mike Johnston, who is Portland’s general manager and coach, and 14-year NHL veteran Travis Green, who is the team’s assistant coach.

Neither the NHL nor the Coyotes released any information or would

comment on any new ownership groups. A voicemail left for Gallacher was

not immediately returned, and a spokesperson for the Winterhawks said

Gallacher “rarely conducts interviews.”

Nothing is known of what sort of lease agreement with Glendale might emerge, but if Gallacher is part of a new ownership group, it would raise the possibility of an opt-out clause.

Portland has an NHL-ready arena in the Rose Garden, and that city was a rumored destination for the Coyotes once before (the move came a lot closer to happening than most fans know). Jamison said Thursday, however, that he left negotiations convinced that he had succeeded in keeping hockey in Arizona for the foreseeable future, and the NHL has remained steadfast in its preference that the team remain here.

It’s also unclear whether Gallacher is only pursuing a controlling interest or could be part of a group that still involves Jamison.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly did release a short statement Friday morning on the Coyotes’ ownership saga: “We remain hopeful the Coyotes sale process will be resolved successfully, and we will continue to work with the City of Glendale to move the process forward.”

Coyotes COO Mike Nealy followed shortly afterward with this statement: “Today, we were informed by the National Hockey League that Mr. Jamison was unable to close on his purchase of the Coyotes. Mr. Jamison will continue to work with the NHL and the City of Glendale to close a deal that will keep the Coyotes in the Valley. Although there is no set timetable, hopefully it will be soon.
“The Coyotes will continue to be owned by the NHL and nothing changes for our organization. We will work hard on and off the ice to provide our fans with a winning team that they can be proud of. We would like to thank all of our great fans and corporate partners for their incredible patience and loyalty throughout this process. We know it’s been difficult and we appreciate their support.”

Coyotes players, who were in Dallas for a Friday night game against the Stars, expressed disappointment in the latest turn of events but insisted it’s business as usual.

“We’re obviously all disappointed in that we hoped that it would have been done,” captain Shane Doan told Todd Walsh. “But it doesn’t change a single thing in the room. Our job is to play hockey and to find ways to win games.”

Defenseman Derek Morris agreed: “It’s obviously disappointing that it’s not over and done with, but hopefully another group steps in. Ultimately, it’s not even in our mind, and we’ll go out and play hockey.”

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