October 03, 2014

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Coyotes spent four years trying to avoid the distractions of not having an owner, focused on winning games while looking over their shoulders at what was going on off the ice.

Some much-needed stability appeared to be in place last year, when IceArizona purchased the team from the NHL.

But, as has been the case throughout this saga, another twist was in store, this one coming when IceArizona acknowledged it was in negotiations with a potential new investor.

This turn was met with a shrug.

Though details of the potential deal are foggy, even to the players and coaches on the team, it's fairly clear that the team is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Besides, the Coyotes have been through this many, many times before and are certainly used to it.

''When you first hear about it, it's just `What are the details about it?' And once you look at it, it changes nothing for us,'' Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said Friday. ''This isn't staying or leaving. This is businessmen doing what they do, so this has zero effect on us.''

Even so, the latest news had to send a jolt through Coyotes fans in the desert.

It came on Thursday, when the New York Post reported IceArizona was in the process of selling a majority stake in the Coyotes to Andrew Barroway, a Philadelphia hedge fund manager who's made unsuccessful attempts to buy the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders.

Speculation swirled throughout the day until the Coyotes released a statement confirming that they are in discussions with an unsolicited potential investor. In the release, the Coyotes said no deal was in place and no members of the IceArizona group would give up ownership of the team, calling it a positive step for the future of the team.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly later said there should be no concerns about ownership of the Coyotes nor were there any plans for relocating the franchise.

The news barely caused a ripple among the Coyotes players as they got ready for the team's final preseason game Friday night.

''I'm pretty sure no one's too concerned in our room,'' Arizona captain Shane Doan said. ''This is a minor, minor, minor, minor thing compared to the previous five years. It's not a big deal.''

What the Coyotes went through before was a wild ride.

It started in 2009, when owner Jerry Moyes took the team into bankruptcy in a failed attempt to sell it to Blackberry founder Jim Balsillie, who planned to move the franchise to Hamilton, Ontario. The NHL and city of Glendale fought the plan in court and the team was sold to the league later that year.

Over the next four years, one potential owner stepped forward and fell back as rumors of relocating the franchise swirled.

Renaissance Sports and Entertainment, managing partner of IceArizona, finally got a deal done last year.

Even then it wasn't easy.

RSE reached a purchase agreement with the NHL, but went through tense negotiations with the city of Glendale over a lease agreement for Jobing.com Arena. Amid speculation that the NHL would move the team to Seattle if the $225 million deal fell through, Glendale's City Council approved it by a 4-3 vote and IceArizona later completed its purchase from the league.

The members of IceArizona, headed by George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc, appeared to be pleased with the team in their first season and the team took another step toward stability by signing a nine-year partnership with Gila River Casinos that includes naming rights for the arena.

But just when the foundation appeared to be stable, it wobbled at least a little bit with this latest news, even if it didn't shake the Coyotes.

''I kind of chuckled in the fact that we were going to get asked questions about ownership again,'' Doan said. ''Other than that, nothing's really changed so it's not anything I'm really too worried about.''

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