SPORTS

Anthony Leblanc, Coyotes owner, and NHL deny team moving to Las Vegas

07/01/2015 12:44 EDT | Updated 06/30/2016 05:59 EDT
National Hockey League president Gary Bettman and Arizona Coyotes' co-owner Anthony Leblanc vehemently denied a story in the New York Post that the team was being sold and moved to Las Vegas.

The New York Post claimed two unidentified sources indicated the Coyotes were being sold to billionaire William Foley and moved to Las Vegas. 

However, when the story was published Tuesday evening, Bettman said the story "was garbage."

Leblanc said the story was 'one hundred per cent false. There's no truth to it. I'm not an unidentified source, I'm a principal, so I think I should know."

In June, the Coyotes sought a restraining order to prevent the dissolution of their lease agreement after Glendale city council voted to end the agreement. 

The Coyotes signed a 15-year, $225 million US lease agreement for then-Jobing.com Arena with the city of Glendale in 2013, just a few months after IceArizona bought the team from the NHL. Last year, Philadelphia hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway purchased a 51 per cent stake in the team, strengthening it financially, and the organization also agreed to a nine-year naming rights deal for what is now called Gila River Arena.

Last week, the NHL Board of Governors met in Las Vegas and it was announced that the formal expansion process had been started and that the league would accept bids from interested parties. Formal applications for new franchises will begin July 6, with the process closing on Aug. 10.

"The fact we are going through this process doesn't mean we are going to expand," Bettman said prior the NHL Awards. "All it means is we're going to stop just listening to expressions of interest and take a good, hard look at what they actually mean and represent."

The NHL hasn't decided how many clubs it might add, and it doesn't anticipate expansion before the 2017-18 season, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. Bettman indicated that an expansion fee would be at least $500 million US, to be distributed among the existing clubs.

Las Vegas, Quebec City and Seattle were among the favourites to make bids. 

Foley, a businessman Forbes reports to be worth $600 million, ran a ticket drive earlier this year and signed up over 11,500 would-be season ticket buyers.

The process of luring a cold-weather sport to a desert town has been underway for several years. MGM Resorts and sports conglomerate AEG are already building a $350 million, 20,000-seat arena slated to open next year right on the Strip.

"I'm all for anywhere they can make money at this point," Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "There's teams that are struggling a lot, and if [Vegas] has the support that goes behind it, then I'm all for it. … I'm sure you'd have some issues at some point, like in any city, but you're a professional."

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