The Phoenix Coyotes will face the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena to start their Western Conference quarterfinal series, but it's what may—or may not—happen behind the scenes that will likely be the dominant news story of this series.
The Goldwater Institute-Matt Hulsizer-Glendale City Council triangle has dragged on for months now and speculation has been increasing that this situation will come to an end one way or another whenever Phoenix's season ends.
Which is why this year's playoffs means more to the Coyotes than 2010. When the NHL bought the team out of bankruptcy in 2009 for $140 million, it was assumed that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman would be able to lure someone to buy the cash-strapped franchise.
Ice Edge Holdings came and went, as did Chicago White Sox and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Both parties were likely to change the team name from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Arizona or Glendale Coyotes if their sale went through.
Two years have passed now. Reinsdorf's deal died in May 2010. Ice Edge and Glendale reached an impasse in negotiations in July and Ice Edge threw in the white towel in August. Current interested party Matt Hulsizer reached a preliminary lease agreement in September.
Next Sunday (April 17) will be the seven-month anniversary of when Hulsizer deposited $25 million in an escrow account to signify his seriousness in purchasing the Coyotes. Seven months.
And through all of this, the Coyotes kept winning. The team made the playoffs last season as the No. 5 seed with franchise records in wins (50) and points (107), but lost a tough seven-game series with No. 4 seed Detroit. But despite all of that, one gets the feeling that Phoenix—as a franchise—is down to its last out in the bottom of the ninth.
The 2011 season was not as successful as 2010, with 43 wins and 99 points. This time, Phoenix is a No. 6 seed, while Detroit is a No. 3 seed.
While neither the NHL or Hulsizer has announced the deal has failed, there has been no concrete news about it in the last two weeks. In most cases, the "no news is good news" cliche would apply, but not here.
Glendale has reportedly found buyers for $50 million of the $100 million bonds it would take to make the purchase a reality. The remaining half is likely waiting on the outcome of this series to see if Phoenix can take a step forward from 2010.
If the Coyotes can win this series, it might be enough to bring Hulsizer and the Goldwater Institute the final 25 yards toward an agreement. If Phoenix loses, especially if it loses badly, the NHL's Arizona experiment may come to an end.