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Coyotes CEO 'confident' team is staying in Glendale

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- This could be the day that the Phoenix Coyotes clinch an NHL playoff spot.

The team doesn't play again until Friday night, but if the Dallas Stars lose in Nashville tonight, the Coyotes are in the playoffs for the third straight year.

While the Coyotes' playoff run has been making news on the ice, little has been reported lately about the potential sale of the team, fueling speculation that it could move to Seattle, Kansas City, Mo., Quebec or elsewhere.

But Coyotes President/CEO Mike Nealy said he's confident that the team will stay in Glendale. Behind the scenes, there's been activity to that end.

"We are not in a scenario that the team is leaving, and we're just trying to keep this quiet until we get through the season," he said.

"Contrary to that, there is a lot of activity. It is well known that the National Hockey League wants us to stay here. (At least) two ownership groups are out there and they are trying to get this thing done in the near term."

Nealy would not identify who the potential owners are. Former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison and Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf have both been reported as heading groups believed to be interested in the team.

Nealy said it's possible that the sale could happen within the next few weeks.

"It won't be long before we know," said Nealy. "From a positive standpoint, we'll find out hopefully soon that we're here ... and who we're here with ... and that we can move on."

He said a decision on the sale has to come "before summer" so that next year's schedule can be made. Nealy also said the NHL has not given the Coyotes a deadline date for the deal to be completed.

The NHL took over as team owner in 2009 when the Coyotes were going through bankruptcy. Nealy said the league has been a good owner, stabilizing the franchise and the league has "given us a budget" to compete and move in the right direction.

Nealy said the team is making progress. In addition to making the playoffs the past two seasons, ticket sales are up.

"This regular season, we sold 60,000 more tickets than we did two years ago," he said. "One of our goals was to sell tickets. I think there was a history of giving a lot of tickets away. We gave away 50,000 fewer tickets this season."

Another positive sign is that many of this year's season ticket holders have already renewed for next season.

"Our renewal rate now is already in the 82 percent range," said Nealy.

That's 20 percent higher than at this time last year. That means the team is on a pace to top last year's team-record season ticket renewal numbers, when 90 percent of ticket holders renewed.

Nealy said that an incentive that allowed season ticket holders to buy playoff tickets for this year has helped boost renewals.


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