Coyotes' Fate Remains Uncertain; Bettman Wants Franchise in Arizona

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Coyotes' Fate Remains Uncertain; Bettman Wants Franchise in Arizona
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The Coyotes may be gone in a matter of a few months.

The ultimate destination for the Phoenix Coyotes remains as elusive as their current chances of qualifying for the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

With two months to go in the regular season and an uncertain summer following, the Coyotes' fate is no closer to being resolved in early February than at any time in the last three years.

That’s when the present scenario commenced, and this prolonged soap opera continues to wear thin.

When the Glendale, Arizona city council allocated $25 million to the NHL for 2011-12 team operation, the meeting May 10, 2011 drew over 1,000 viewers to the on-line telecast. A 1,000 interested minds is far from a ratings coup and remains a testament to the isolated pockets of support for this beleaguered franchise.

Since, there has been no movement on a potential buyer, and that does not seem to concern NHL officials.

“We hope, based on the things that are ongoing, to have a sale in place before the end of the season that would keep the team in Glendale,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the Associated Press at the recent All-Star weekend in Ottawa. “I don’t see any reason to discuss a Plan B at this point.”

Potential buyers are not breaking down the doors of the Coyotes' office with sales agreements, nor is there any movement from the Glendale city officials. The Coyotes are not on the agenda for the Feb. 14 city council meeting, and have not been the subject of an agenda item since the $25M allocation last May.

In a circumstance which play, or not play into a final resolution, is the retirement of Ed Beasley, the Glendale city manager. Beasley was intimately involved trying to reach a sale of the team, in the ability to retain the franchise in suburban Phoenix and remains a close confident of Bettman and Bill Daly, the NHL deputy Commission. Beasley is scheduled to leave his position by April 1.

As well, the Coyotes' current play on the ice is not helping attract attention.

Coming into a Feb. 4 home game with San Jose, they are 10-10-4 in games at Jobing.com Arena and out of a playoff position in the Western Conference standings. The longest winning streak at home this season is two games, and that was achieved only twice. With the Sharks game, Phoenix is in the middle of 14 straight games against Western Conference opponents.

For the remaining two months, the Coyotes have only one game left with an Eastern Conference opponent and that’s the Penguins in Pittsburgh on March 5.

More importantly, Phoenix-area fans simply do not support this team.

On Jan. 24, the Ottawa Senators drew 8,061 and five crowds have been under 7,100 in attendance. Interest in this team remains relatively low to the degree that the daily newspaper in Phoenix, the Arizona Republic, does not send its beat writer on the road. That includes even short trips to Los Angeles for games against the Kings and Anaheim for contests against the Ducks.

Since prospective buyer Matt Hulsizer withdrew last spring, two groups have been rumored to acquire the franchise. When Claude Raines in Casablanca told his officers “to round up the usual suspects,” the potential buyers here as well remains the usual cast.

Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is repeatedly mention as is Greg Jamison, former CEO and president of the Sharks as potential buyers. During the recent All-Star weekend, Bettman told reporters that a third party has expressed serious interest, but would not name names.

For now, the Coyotes are limping to the finish line and in immediate quest for a playoff spot. Whether the Coyotes remain in the desert, relocate some other place on the planet or dissolve as the old Cleveland Barons remains the question of the hour.

This scenario is no closer to any resolution now than when previous owner Jerry Moyes filed for bankruptcy and started this ugly mess.

ON THE ICE

After San Jose, the Coyotes have three of their next four games at home. Detroit skates into the desert Feb. 6, followed by Calgary on Feb. 9 and Chicago on Feb. 11.

Before the Blackhawks game, the Coyotes will retire Jeremy Roenick’s Phoenix sweater. That marks the second former Phoenix player to honored in such a matter this season. On Dec. 23, Keith Tkachuk was cited in a similar ceremony.

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