- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - New team name, new building name, same ownership drama for the Arizona Coyotes.

Only nothing regarding new majority ownership of the team, as indicated in previous reports, was announced before Thursday night’s season opener.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking before Arizona hosted Winnipeg, said the Coyotes franchise is doing well. Then he fielded questions from reporters about a potential new investor, Philadelphia hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway, at Gila River Arena.

Bettman confirmed that current Coyotes owners George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc and their partners have received an unsolicited expression of interest in joining the IceArizona ownership group.

“It’s been all good. I think the vital signs are terrific and everything is headed in the right direction,” Bettman said. “Nothing has been finalized. It’s conceivable nothing will be finalized. It’s possible something will get finalized. But what it means is the franchise is headed in such a direction that there are people with substantial resources who want to be a part of this and want to bring additional assets and support to the franchise.”

Bettman added that any speculation about what the new ownership stake would mean as far as relocation of the Coyotes is unfounded.

“It’s off the mark,” he said. “If this comes to fruition, that’s great news. Even if it doesn’t, the fact that the interest is there is just a testament to how much progress the franchise has made.”

Any transaction is subject to league approval.

IceArizona wasn’t looking for more investors and the league didn’t expect any further activity, Bettman said, while not confirming or denying that Barroway is the investor who expressed interest.

The Coyotes were in danger of leaving Arizona in 2009 when former owner Jerry Moyes took the team into bankruptcy in an attempt to sell it. But the NHL and the city of Glendale, where the Coyotes play, fought the sale in court and the league bought the team and ran it until last year.

After years of potential owners backing out and much speculation from one season to the next about whether the Coyotes would continue to play in the Valley of the Sun, IceArizona completed its purchase after reaching a deal on a lease agreement for what was then Jobing.com Arena that was approved by the Glendale City Council by a 4-3 vote.

“Taking over a situation like they took over, it isn’t like turning on a light switch. It takes time to build it the right way,” Bettman said. “It could be losses, but it could also be viewed as the initial investment to get things right.”

The New York Post reported last week that the Coyotes’ owners lost $24 million in the first season of operation alone. IceArizona has a five-year out clause from the lease should losses continue to mount.

“The lease was signed with the expectation that the league would be here for the long haul,” Bettman said. “Based on everything I’ve been told … I would be surprised if we find ourselves in that situation.”

Bettman said there is no reason for fans to be skeptical or cynical with regard to any new ownership transaction, and no reason the current lease deal wouldn’t remain in place even with new majority owners.

“At this point, I don’t understand the exasperation (from Coyotes fans and critics),” Bettman said. “Everything that we’ve told you for the last four years has come to fruition just the way we told you it would. I kept saying we were committed to being here … the team’s here. We identified new owners. They’re here. They’re improving the operation of the club. They’re relating to the community. They’re running this building. All the things we promised you, they’ve happened.”

Before this season, the team changed its name from Phoenix Coyotes to Arizona Coyotes to make a stronger connection to all fans in the state.

NOTES: Bettman said there is plenty of interest in NHL expansion, but the league isn’t currently looking into it. … The Phoenix area could get an NHL All-Star game in the near future. “I don’t have a date, but we owe you a game,” Bettman said. … The league will play an outdoor game at some point in Winnipeg, Bettman said, and only a date for that is needed.

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