By Bailing Out The Coyotes, NHL, Glendale Simply Delaying The Inevitable

Joe M.Correspondent IIMay 13, 2010

16 Jan 1996:  Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin of the Winnipeg Jets looks on during a game against the Washington Capitals at the USAir Arena in Landover, Maryland.  The game was a tie, 1-1. Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger  /Allsport
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Aww, isn't that cute. The Glendale City Council, in a no-doubt calculated show of solidarity voted unanimously to approve covering the "Phoenix" Coyotes projected $25 million dollar loses for the upcoming season, at the NHL's request so that the team might be able to stay in the state.

I didn't need to read any of the plethora of articles in today's Winnipeg Free Press to know that Tuesday's Glendale City Council Meeting was bogus.

Here are the articles: Don't Give Up NHL tells city, There's still a fighting chance Coyotes might yet end up in 'Peg, and Don Cherry Willing to chip in for Winnipeg team.

As Tuesday morning's Winnipeg Free Press previewed (prior to the vote), all the vote would do is "authorize" Glendale City manager Ed Beasley the right to negoniate with the NHL in trying to keep the team from moving.

NHL Deputy commissioner, and Gary Bettman's right-hand-man Bill Daly echoed this thought:

"This is... an insurance policy which allows us to move forward."

He's exactly right. All this does is simply bide more time to try and find a local or national buyer which isn't going to happen. All this does is simply delay the inevitable.

The city and some online observers insist that failed puppet owner Jerry Reinsdorf is "waiting in the weeds" along with Ice Edge Holdings, a Connecticut-based group of rah-rah fans moreso than an actual legitimate ownership option.  

As someone who listened to the roughly 1 hour and 41 minute city council meeting over the Winnipeg Free Press' live blog/feed it became apparant that they were willing to drag out the vote until as long as possible. What appeared to be sure "No" votes as in the case of one Councilmember noted in an above link, turned into an over-dramatic, and needless display of suspense and affection for their Coyotes.

Aside from actually wondering when each councilmember became aware of, or a fan of the suddenly-competative team that had been in their own backyard for 14 years too long, the main idea I took away from the meeting was not any real love of hockey but rather, the concern the loss of the team would have on the area's downtown business' and the people of Glendale, and ultimately themselves as a whole.

I mean, can you imagine trying to justify having no tenant in a seven year old building that is arena? It was obvious they knew it was better to have a tenant than have none and that the loss of the team would have a much greater effect on the city and thus them than anything else.

Still, I must admit, I was shocked and surprised by the 7-0 vote. Where is that money going to come from? City taxes? Good luck with that one.

Simply Delaying the Inevitable

So Glendale voted to cover the loses of the team should they be allowed to stay in "Phoenix" for next season. Immediately I was skeptical even after the vote. Where are they going to get the money?

By voting to cover the team's loses, they, along with the NHL, are basically admitting to the world that their 15th season in the desert will not be a profitable one. In fact, they are ready to cover at least $25 million in operating expenses. The law of averages suggests that doesn't make economic sense, especially in this economy.

The vote Tuesday, is simply a band-aid, a temporary stopgap, whatever you want to call it. The NHL is betting that another good season out of the team will increase fan interest and thus revenue, but don't you kind of get the feeling this may have been one big adreniline-fueled playoff run? You cannot give away free tickets forever the same way you cannot have a city cover a professional sport's team's loses indefinately.

The bailout may last one year, but so what? What about next year when no local owner is found? The NHL is going to expect another delay, another covering-of-the-loses. What about the year after that? And the year after that? It simply doesn't add up. Again, the Montreal Expos were babysat by Major League Baseball for about three years before they were ultimately sold and moved and the same will happen here only this time it won't be just one team.

Quebec Wants back in too

Ever the oportunist, Canadian conglomerate, Quebecor, has been actively following the NHL's handling of the Coyotes situation and released the following update today. A feasability study on a new arena has been ordered and started and their are some reports that something may happen on June 18, although I continue to wait and see on that one.

Why does this matter? Because not only is Phoenix running against the clock, but the longer this process takes, the more suitors are bound to line up. So far we've got Winnipeg, who I believe we haven't heard the last of yet, and Quebec lurking in the shadows.

Ken Campbell, a columnist for The Hockey can be credited, at least in my eyes, as the man who first broke the news on a possible David Thomson-Winnipeg Jets revival back in his March 22 column. From their rumors and speculation spread like wildfire, but unlike most internet rumors, they apparantly turned out to be true as Winnipeg soon emerged from the shadows and people got familar with the names Mark Chipman and David Thomson.

Now, Campbell is reporting that as many as one-third of the NHL teams may soon be put up for sale and that ownership groups are becoming harder and harder to find. Because of this house-of-cards soon collapsing on Commissioner Bettman's head all at one time, he simply won't be able to accomodate every team and someone is going to have to move.

The NHL cannot buy up all the troubled franchises, most of which, save for the New York Islanders, St. Louis Blues, and possibly even the New Jersey Devils, as Campbell notes, lie in the American South region-hardly a hockey hotbed.

Many believe its only a matter of time until Quebec, Winnipeg, Hamilton, and Hartford, Connecticut all get their teams back and I'd like to add, in addition to that, don't be surprised if they all get their pick of the litter as to which team they want as its going to be that bad and that plentiful.

Montreal's Cup run playing a role

Finally, don't you think that Montreal's historic, captivating Stanley Cup run as a #8 seed is having anything to do with this Canadian Nationalist comeback? I certainly do. It along with the economy in America and the Southern economic collapse of several American franchises is creating the perfect storm and the perfect excuse.  

You've got to strike when the iron's hot and them winning the Cup and bringing it back home would only enrage the Canadian citizens from the lowest casual fan to the highest potential season ticket holder or owner from feeling envous and wanting it in their own province for their own. It is also for this reason that I am hoping this becomes reality.

Problems in Phoenix

Winnipeggers may feel they got the short end of the stick once again. One of my friends tried to reassure me that it would be okay and that I jumped the gun writing this column: NHL May Return To Winnipeg, but Only Because It Has To, Not Wants To.

As with all my columns I did it knowing some risk, as the meeting hadn't taken place yet but I wanted to be on record in case the inevitable happened. I replied by saying that Winnipeg did not fail.

At the very least, they got the NHL's attention, most notably Bettman and the people that matter that can make a move to Canada happen. When the money pit runs dry in Phoenix, Bettman will have to concede as the first two links at the top of this article suggest.  He is now aware of Mark Chipman and his finacial partner, David Thomson and their legitimate interest in buying and moving a club.

Next, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz already went on record saying he believes a team could move to Winnipeg "within the next three years" which is appropriate since that is about when the NHL's wall will likely collapse. Quebec is already planning ahead and doing it perfectly I might add, provided they can get the funding for a new arena.

The bailout bought Phoenix some time. So what? Again, no prospective owner in his right might is going to risk a part of his fortune on a region where a profit hasn't been made in 14 years, Jerry Reinsdorf's tentativeness proved this much. The Coyotes are coming off their most successful season ever, setting a team record for wins and they still managed to lose at least $20 million suggesting it doesn't pay to win.

How do you think fans are going to react to what essentially could be a lame-duck season?  Fans aren't buying merchadise due to the team's uncertain future this year, why would they suddenly change next year? Tickets are only going to have the same reaction. Tuesday's meeting did nothing to convince me otherwise. If that were the case the NHL wouldn't still be discussing Winnipeg or giving Quebec the time of day.

These cities aren't dumb, they can see blood in the water.

Legal challenges ahead for Glendale?

The Phoenix Business Journal noted Arizona's unique "gift clause" which I explained but also linked in my last article, above. At issue was Glendale's right to essentially "bail out" the Coyotes from their situation.

I suggested to a friend that if prospective owners Mark Chipman and David Thomson really wanted to, I suppose they could challenge this law in court. But, I think they saw where that got Jim Balsillie and besides, they appear to be too nice of guys to do that, they'd rather just wait this whole process out.

However, those conspiracy theories and drama-craving people apparantly won't go un-satisfied as an Arizona Watchdog group apparantly plans to sue anyway over this clause. I told you this thing wasn't over. Now do you understand the source of my optimism?

Finally, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Thomson and Chipman are determined to get a team and have all the ammo to do it, along with the NHL's respect which is big.

Just ask Jim Balsillie.

Information and references from The Toronto Sun, Winnipeg Free Press, Toronto Globe and Mail, Phoenix Business Journal, CBC NEWS, and Ken Campbell and Campbell's Cuts directly contributed to this article.


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