Bits of information are coming out this week that should be interesting to say the least concerning the future of the Phoenix Coyotes franchise in its current state. Here is the latest.
What we do know is the Glendale City Council will vote on the two proposed lease agreements Tuesday of next week between Ice Edge Holdings, a controversial company (because they don't seem to have the cash, not because they don't have the merit) and Real Estate mongul and Chicago White Sox and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
As I noted in my last article, Is Jerry Reinsdorf the NHL's Pawn until Something Better Comes Along? , Mr. Reinsdorf appears to be the stopgap from the NHL being forced to move the team to Canada which it clearly does not want to do. Think of it this way, the NHL is playing a game of "keep away" from Canada and Reinsdorf role is to make sure this is the case.
My last article, as well as the previous few indicated that Ice Edge Holdings was a "joke" bid and while I believe they remained intent on owning a team at least to some degree, it became increasingly suspect at best and in the end appeared to be nothing more than a front to make the bidding process on the Coyotes ownership situation look competitive and less embarrassing to the NHL that owns them.
Perhaps Ice Edge's role was not only to make the process look competitive, but maybe the NHL wanted to create the illusion of a greater demand among the groups in order to perhaps bring in a few more legit bids, preferably locally, as these two groups are outsiders, which never materialized. After all, they couldn't just hand the bid to Reinsdorf—that wouldn't look democratic.
If the Ice Edge bid really was legit, perhaps in a best-case scenario, the NHL desired a bidding war to take place in order to not only increase their take upon the sale of the team, but also to recoup some of the debt that the franchise not only faces but also to get some of the league's money back which they dumped into the team and lost since taking control of the team over a year ago?
Ice Edge dropping out?
Reports surfaced (unsurprisingly if you've read my columns) about one of the two groups (guess which one that is) possibly dropping out of the race to own the NHL's most under-appreciated team which currently sits fourth in the Western Conference with 104 points.
It appears now that Ice Edge Holdings is going to use some "frustration" over the lengthy lease process to [shockingly] drop out of the bidding? Who didn't see this coming? I mean, previous reports only indicated that Ice Edge neither had the money or the plan necessary to seriously compete for the team.
And now, with the June 30, 2010 deadline looming soon, and the sale to Reinsdorf seemingly wrapped up, (because that's the way the NHL wants it-and I believe wanted it all along) they aren't needed anymore so they can just fade away into the Arizona night.
While their desire has been shaky from Day One, it should be noted they are not yet offically out. It is believed however that should they still have a bid, that would no longer include the option for a handful of games in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in an effort to gain additional income for the cash-strapped club.
As a supporter of that part of the bid, in only that it would bring a few extra games to Canada, no matter how small the number, that part will be sadly missed.
Even a few games in a new province such as Saskatchewan could have possibly one day opened the door for either NHL expansion or relocation whenever the next Southern United States NHL franchise (Atlanta Thrashers) gets put on the table if and when the Coyotes are temporarily saved. It would have been a nice test-case to see if the NHL could survive in the region. Now we'll likely never know.
Phoenix loses 2011 All Star game to Raleigh (UPDATED)
Late yesterday afternoon it was announced that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, (above) was in Raleigh, NC to offically announce the 2011 All-Star Game has been moved from Phoenix (ironically) to Raleigh. He specifically cited both a 2001 promise he made to the Hurricanes organization that if they could get their season ticket base above 12,000 this would ensure their chances. They must have done that.
Additionally, he cited the uncertain future of the Phoenix franchise as reason for moving it. Now call me crazy but if you are so confident of the sale of the team going through once the lease agreement is agreed upon with whomever party wins the bid, then why move the event?
I mean, if anyone needs the additional revenue from such an event, not to mention the publicity and the endless opportunities to promote the so-called 'good' hockey being played in the desert as reasons to support the team, then the league just abandoned a golden opportunity. Why wouldn't you want to continue to market one of the league's biggest surprises on the ice?
Perhaps Canadians and hockey traditionalists can take this small glimmer of hope and run with it as a sign of things to come in the desert?
So what's next?
So what exactly could happen on Tuesday?
The Glendale City Council will vote on one of the two bids (likely one bid as it sounds) and will do their best to accept it for fear of losing the team. What is not clear is whether this would lead to a public vote on the lease funding or how many of the issues are still to be hammered out.
These issues ranged from everything from parking revenue, which was the number one concern, to Reinsdorf's want of an opt-out, to arena improvements etc. I've outlined several more in this column, Even with a Cup, Long-Term Future Not Practical for NHL in Phoenix.
If the lease deal is approved, the NHL would then decide on who owns the team as a result, as in-this-whole-thing-could-finally-be-over.
So who would the biggest losers in this whole process be?
Canadians and traditional hockey fans who were once again robbed of a chance for the NHL to return to its rightful place in Canada. While my desire has always been to see this embarrassment of a team go to Quebec , if not there, then Winnipeg, its original home, was the next logical choice and for that reason I jumped on that glimmer of hope.
The item lost in all this is if the owners of the MTS Centre has just built an 18,000 seat arena or so, right from the beginning, instead of the 15,015 it currently sits, the NHL would probably be salivating at the chance to be back by now. But to the owner's defense, how could they ever have predicted in their wildest dreams that the NHL would ever take them seriously again or that so many NHL teams would be looking to relocate and so quickly?
Sadly it appears the NHL has once again won, because it wanted to win and the people of Arizona as well as Winnipeg and all points in between will suffer for it as a result unless the bid is miraculously rejected which would then open up the Gates of Hell for the NHL as well as an additional round of ridicule not the least that they don't deserve.
Tuesday is the next stepping stone which will determine the next path that is to be taken on this embarrassing journey, one that the NHL wishes would go away, kind of how I feel about the very team involved.
Information and references from AZCentral.com, the Toronto Globe and Mail, as well as the Montreal Gazette directly contributed to this article.