NHL believes Arizona still viable

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The future of the Phoenix Coyotes remains in limbo, but several players believe the bankrupt NHL team will stay in Arizona.

"We're planning to be here for a long time. We want to make this work," forward Peter Mueller said at Thursday night's open house that attracted an estimated 3,000 people to Jobing.com Arena. "The fans are clearly behind us and we want to give back the 100 percent they show to us."

"We're happy to be here ... and it's a great place to play," defenseman Keith Yandle said. "From a player's standpoint, you just want to play and let the other things take care of themselves. The fans here give us great support and we expect to play here for some time."

A federal bankruptcy court judge in Phoenix has set Friday as a deadline for potential buyers who would keep the Coyotes in Arizona to submit purchase applications to the NHL. Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of NBA's Chicago Bulls and major league baseball's Chicago White Sox, has promised to make an offer.

The NHL claims four parties, including Reinsdorf, have filed preliminary applications to investigate purchasing the Coyotes and keeping the team in Arizona.

But if a suitable buyer isn't found by the Aug. 5 sale date, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Redfield T. Baum has set a second auction for Sept. 10 that would be open to bidders who want to relocate the team.

That would allow Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie to renew his $212.5 million bid to buy the franchise and move it to Hamilton, Ontario.

Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes surprised the NHL by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 5 with a plan to sell the team to Balsillie, contingent on moving the franchise to Hamilton.

The Coyotes have lost more than $300 million since the franchise moved in 1996 from Winnipeg, and at least $36 million each of the last three seasons.

Moyes would recoup about $100 million in the sale to Balsillie.

Since moving from a downtown Phoenix arena to Jobing.com in 2003, the Coyotes have not made the playoffs and have struggled to fill the 18,000-seat venue in Glendale. They ranked 28th out of 30 NHL teams in attendance last season.

But league officials contend the Coyotes can be viable with better management and more success on the ice and they would prefer to see the team stay in Arizona.

"This is a hockey city," Mueller said. "Fans are tremendous here and we want to win to show our appreciation. We'll put in the work and give the fans something they deserve."