NHL Relocation: Gary Bettman Must Give Up on Phoenix, Move Coyotes to Quebec

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NHL Relocation: Gary Bettman Must Give Up on Phoenix, Move Coyotes to Quebec
Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has done everything possible to save the Phoenix Coyotes and keep them in Glendale despite the franchise's lack of strong ownership, financial troubles and inability to improve its attendance numbers.

It's been an admirable attempt to make NHL hockey work long-term in Arizona, but after learning that potential owner Greg Jamison's attempt to finish buying the team will reportedly be unsuccessful, it's clear that Bettman must do what he should have done a few years ago.

End this embarrassing Coyotes nightmare and move the team to Quebec City, where it belongs.

 

UPDATE: Thursday, January 31 at 12:45 p.m. ET by Nicholas Goss

According to Dave Shoalts of The Globe and Mail, Jamison will not buy the Coyotes.

---End of Update---

 

ESPN.com's Scott Burnside updated us on the situation brewing in Phoenix on Wednesday:

Former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison, the main suitor for the Phoenix Coyotes for the past year, cannot produce the capital needed to purchase the team from the NHL and as a result a Jan. 31 deadline to maintain a critical lease agreement with the City of Glendale will pass without a deal being completed, multiple sources have told ESPN.com.

A separate group of investors is prepared to step into the void created by Jamison's failure to produce the money he repeatedly insisted he would deliver to complete the deal, but the question is whether Glendale officials will agree to extend the lease agreement to a new group given that it was Jamison who negotiated the terms of the highly contentious lease deal.

Burnside also talks about Quebec City and the Coyotes:

There is also momentum to see a return of NHL hockey to Quebec City, where there are plans for a new NHL-style arena and an ownership group believed to be in place that would be interested in buying the Coyotes for the purposes of relocation.

Ken Campbell of The Hockey News has even more information on Jamison's struggles to fund a sale of the Coyotes.

While Quebec builds the "NHL-style arena" Burnside mentions in the above passage, the Coyotes might be able to play at the Colisée, where the Quebec Nordiques played from 1972 through 1995 before being relocated to Denver and becoming the Colorado Avalanche prior to the 1995-96 season.

The Colisée would probably need to be worked on so it becomes more modern and meets NHL standards in the short-term, but a team in Quebec would have absolutely no problems selling out and making lots of revenue from ticket sales, merchandise and other forms of income.

Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
The Colisée in Quebec

After several years of the Coyotes giving their fans a winning team to watch each night, hockey fans in the Glendale area still haven't shown the amount of loyalty needed to make a franchise financially viable.

Despite making the playoffs for the last three years, including an exciting run to the team's first ever Western Conference Finals appearance last season, the Coyotes have averaged 12,406 fans each game this season (via ESPN), which isn't even a fair representation of the team's attendance thus far because the team sold out the home opener and hasn't come close to doing it again since.

As you can see, the Coyotes' attendance numbers have been unimpressive for some time (2012-13 numbers include five home games).

Year Attendance % NHL Rank
2006-07 85.6 23rd
2007-08 84.7 24th
2008-09 85.0 27th
2009-10 68.5 30th
2010-11 71.2 29th
2011-12 72.5 30th
2012-13 72.4 30th

If the NHL is unable to find an owner with deep pockets that can work out an arena deal with the City of Glendale, how will this team survive financially? Even if an owner(s) comes in and saves this franchise, the chances of it being profitable are not very good.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman

The Coyotes lost $20.6 million during the 2011-12 season, according to Forbes, and without a large fanbase despite being in Arizona since 1996, there's no reason to think that Phoenix's financial situation is going to improve anytime soon. To put it simply, the Coyotes just aren't a good investment.

If the NHL would allow new owners to move the team, then the Coyotes may become a solid investment. It's quite possible that the team could make money in Quebec, which is obviously a traditional hockey market that's full of diehard fans.

With a growing population of over 8,000,000 people (second largest among all Canadian provinces), and a better economy than when the Canadian dollar and the Nordiques were struggling in the mid-1990s, the chances of another NHL team thriving in the province of Quebec are likely high.

When you also consider that potential NHL team owner Québecor Media, is a strong and wealthy company, the league would be wise to allow them to purchase the Coyotes and move the franchise to Quebec. Strong ownership is the key to any team's success.

Per the Winnipeg Free Press (from March, 2012):

"We now have all of the tools required to focus on developing strong relationships and partnerships with international entertainment performers and the National Hockey League," [Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl] Peladeau told analysts Thursday.

"Our agreement with Quebec City for the management of a new facility that will be built by September 2015 also contributes to our objective of diversifying and complementing our content offerings," Peladeau said during a conference call.

Should the NHL move the Coyotes to Quebec?

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Bettman and the league have several possible locations to consider if the Coyotes' future in Glendale ends soon, but Quebec makes the most sense.

The Coyotes players deserve to play in front of a rabid fanbase that will support them each night, regardless of how well the team is playing.

They would have this support in Quebec City, which is home to some of the most passionate and loyal hockey fans in the world. There are very few places that are better for hockey.

Who wouldn't want to see the "Battle of Quebec" again?

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL columnist at Bleacher Report, follow him on Twitter.

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