Off the Ice, Phoenix Coyotes Continue to Face Uncertain Future

Mark BrownContributor IFebruary 13, 2013

The Coyotes' days of celebrating in the desert may be numbered.
The Coyotes' days of celebrating in the desert may be numbered.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The obituaries are all but written, and roses adorn the grave.

For all practical purposes, the life of the franchise known as the Phoenix Coyotes has been sucked from the corpse.

Likely to be a vagabond, homeless lot, the Coyotes’ existence in the American southwest could be a footnote in the history of the National Hockey League within a matter of months.

The last gasp measure, in which seem to end a comedy of errors, evaporated on Jan. 31. That’s when Greg Jamison, the now traitor in the eyes of Coyotes fans, walked the plank, and his effort to secure the Phoenix franchise from the NHL was pronounced dead.

Kept afloat by the NHL itself, the Coyotes continue to face an uncertain future.

Relocation, even in this shorten season, remains a real option. For a franchise which has never turned a profit in its days in Phoenix, a whirlwind odyssey to keep the Coyotes in the desert now seems exhausted.

Because Jamison’s pursuit was only a smoke screen for an unrealistic attempt to get back in the NHL, many believe the Coyotes were dead on arrival. Never in the course of his quest for the Coyotes were investors identified, and never did Jamison even hint as to their identity, individually or collectively. When he failed to meet the Jan. 31, 2013 deadline to secure the franchise from the NHL, that non-event appeared to be the death knell.

The deal Jamison struck with the city of Glendale, locale of the Arena and the Coyotes home rink, was considered stunning.

The city agreed to give Jamison $324 million over 20 years to manage the arena, and that deal represented a conduit for the ultimate acquisition of the Coyotes from the NHL. Though the composition of the city council changed from this vote of November, 2012, the current political climate appears considerably less favorable to cutting Jamison-line deals in the future. Still, the desire to keep the Coyotes in Glendale remains strong.

For the remainder of this lockout-shorten season, the NHL maintains ownership and will manage the team. Since taking operational control of the Coyotes, the league has been a caretaker and caregiver to the franchise.

Because the league is not interested marketing nor promoting the team, luxury boxes in Arena remain vacant and the number of corporate partnership appears to diminish. Retaining the physical operation of the franchise is the only interest of the NHL.

At some time in the future, the league would be more than satisfied for a suitor to come along and lift this burden.

Should no buyer come forward, the area, from an economic standpoint, will take a direct hit. If Coyotes relocate, that question will result in a dramatic, economic development.

That’s because Arena is considered a principal anchor to Westgate, a sprawling shopping and entertainment complex. Within walking distance of the arena lays the University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the NFL Arizona Cardinals, shops, bars, restaurants and an outlet center.

It’s likely several smaller businesses would dry up and the number of customers to the Westgate area would decline dramatically.

More importantly, the citizens of Glendale would be hit with a mortgage on the facility.

If the main tenets relocate, the existing payment on the facility will be a taxpayer burden. Built in 2003 at a cost of $180 million, the arena would remain a tragedy and an economic liability to an community trying to figure out how to pay back additional mortgages on the University of Phoenix Stadium and Camelback Ranch, the spring training home complex of the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.

For now, the Coyotes figure to ride out the season and have the NHL pay their bills. Relocation remains a real option, but the question persists: "where?"

Seattle, while attracting the Sacramento Kings to share a new building with a possible NHL tenet, may be several years away in finalizing and building that new facility.

Quebec City has also been mentioned. Yet, issues constructing a new arena may delay or cancel relocation to Quebec province.

Another possible site within the United States is Kansas City.

Going forward, the fate of the Coyotes remains interesting and uncertain at the same time.

Rumored out of the desert for nearly a half a decade, the team continues to exist in a hostile, economic environment. The NHL wants no more to do with the operation of this franchise and any team facing a two-man deficient.

At this point, there is little movement regarding a potential buyer or the prospect of relocation.

In the end, this story is no more drifting to some kind of conclusion than the days when previous owner Jerry Moyes first declared bankruptcy in 2009.

Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.