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Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Bettman: Expect Yotes in desert in 2012-13

By Scott Burnside

LAS VEGAS -- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said an Arizona judge’s ruling Tuesday, that some of the wording in a controversial lease agreement between the City of Glendale and potential Coyotes owner Greg Jamison has to be reworked, shouldn’t affect the potential sale of the team.

“Not that I’m aware of. Obviously since I’ve been in meetings all day, I haven’t had a chance to either discuss it with the city or with Greg Jamison, but as of this moment, I don’t think it’s changed anything,” Bettman told reporters after a lengthy meeting of the league’s board of governors.

The judge’s ruling makes it clear the lease agreement, which would pay Jamison $325 million over the course of the 20-year deal and is crucial to the sale of the team, was not signed as an emergency measure. That will give concerned citizens time to gather signatures to force a potential referendum on the lease agreement.

Bettman insisted he remains confident the Coyotes, owned by the league for the past three years, will play in Arizona next season.

The NHL’s 2012-13 schedule is set to be released Thursday.

“The Coyotes have been scheduled to play in Phoenix,” Bettman said. "Our hope and expectation is that all of the efforts that have been worked on and are continuing to be worked on will come to fruition."

The commissioner also updated owners on another troubled franchise -- the New Jersey Devils. Although there have been rumors the team was headed for bankruptcy, that hasn’t happened, and owner Jeff Vanderbeek continues to try to sort through the team’s massive financial issues.

“They’re in the process of finishing their refinancing with the banks, and Mr. Vanderbeek continues to do the things he needs to do to try and perpetuate that,” Bettman said.

“The playoffs ended, and they didn’t go into bankruptcy. I caution many of you with this on a regular basis, particularly when it comes to club operations, [there is] entirely too much speculation. And most of it wrong.”

Owners also were given an update on the upcoming talks with the players regarding a new collective bargaining agreement, talks that are expected to begin before the end of the month. But owners declined to talk about what was discussed during the meeting, as did Bettman.

“I don’t think I want to do that,” the commissioner said.

“When we have something to discuss about what’s going on in collective bargaining, I’ll be happy to tell you. But at least for the time being, especially since we haven’t had any formal session yet, I’m going to reserve all my comments at the appropriate time.”

The owners approved the sale of the Toronto Maple Leafs to telecommunications giants Rogers and Bell Canada.

And the board of governors agreed to two small changes to the rules regarding hand passes. First, any player who puts his hand over the puck anywhere on the ice to conceal the puck from an opponent will be assessed a minor penalty for closing his hand on the puck. This usually happens in the defensive zone with players trying to move the puck via a hand pass to a teammate. A player can still tap or bat the puck to a teammate in the defensive zone with his glove but will be penalized if he covers or conceals the puck.

Second, a minor penalty will be called now if a player takes a faceoff with his glove. This will prevent players from simply dropping down on the faceoff and batting the puck to a teammate. This will be called a delay of game faceoff violation.