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Arizona Coyotes take Glendale to court over arena lease cancellation

PHOENIX — The Arizona Coyotes formally began legal proceedings Friday against Glendale after the city voted to cancel its arena lease agreement with the team.

Below is the statement issued by the Coyotes Friday afternoon.

“The Arizona Coyotes have acted to defend their rights and reaffirm their continuing commitment to their great fans by seeking a restraining order to stop the City of Glendale’s baseless attack on, and improper attempt to void, the Coyotes’ lawful and proper lease to play at Gila River Arena. The suit was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court against the City of Glendale, the Glendale City Council and other City officials.”

After issuing the above statement, the Coyotes released the documents it filed with the Maricopa County Superior Court.

A judge granted the team’s request for a temporary restraining order and set a date for further hearings.

In statement, Glendale City Attorney Michael Bailey said the court’s decision was “not a surprise. This decision is just one step in a long process.”

The team began the legal process Thursday, just one day after the city canceled the 15-year, $225 million deal. It will include a variety of legal maneuvers, but no immediate plans to relocate the team and certainly no renegotiation of the existing agreement.

“Our view is they’ve done their action and we’re moving forward with our legal options,” Coyotes co-owner Anthony LeBlanc said during a conference call.

Last week, some Glendale council members raised concerns about where the $15 million the city pays IceArizona to operate the arena was going. LeBlanc and Barroway met with city officials Monday and thought they had clarified that issue, only to be surprised when a vote was called Wednesday night to cancel the arena lease agreement.

Despite strong opposition from local businessmen and Glendale residents during the public forum portion of the meeting, the council voted 5-2 to end the lease agreement, citing an Arizona conflict-of-interest law. The statute allows an entity to cancel a contract if a person who worked on the deal later represents the other party, which councilmembers say happened when former city attorney Craig Tindall began working for the Coyotes as general counsel in 2013.

“This is to protect the taxpayers,” Mayor Jerry Weiers said during the meeting. “I believe they violated the law.”

LeBlanc and attorney Nick Wood, who both spoke on behalf of the team, had a quick response, much of which revolved around legal action.

LeBlanc said the Coyotes have started working on seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the city from ending the deal and a lawsuit that Wood said would reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Aiding the Coyotes will likely be a wave of high-end lawyers hired by the NHL.

“The National Hockey League stands by, and will fully support, the Arizona Coyotes in their efforts to vindicate their contractual rights in response to last night’s outrageous and irresponsible action by the City of Glendale,” the NHL said in a statement. “We continue to proceed on the basis that the Coyotes will remain in Glendale and will be playing their home games at Gila River Arena.”

The Coyotes likely face a lengthy and expensive legal battle ahead, though LeBlanc said there are no plans to alter the hockey budget. He added that Glendale has not given them any indication that the team will be asked to vacate the arena and the team will continue to operate normally there unless something changes.

If the Coyotes are unable to work out their differences with Glendale, there might by a viable option just down the road.

The Coyotes spent their first seven seasons in Arizona sharing a downtown arena with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and a Phoenix city council member has already raised the possibility of another downtown alliance.

KTAR’s Bob McClay and the Associated Press contributed to this report.