The Embarrassment of Phoenix

Caitlin SchulzContributor ISeptember 24, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 18:  (L-R) Kevin Porter #18, Brett MacLean #39, Matthew Lombardi #15, Shane Doan #19 and Jim Vandermeer #20 of the Phoenix Coyotes stand attended for the National Anthem before the preseason NHL game against the Anaheim Ducks at Jobing.com Arena on September 19, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona. The Ducks defeated the Coyotes 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The future of the Phoenix Coyotes is up in the air, and now, so is their coaching position.

Wayne Gretzky announced today that he would be stepping down from his position as coach and director of hockey operations.

Now what?

For the past few months, the Coyotes have become the embarrassment of the National Hockey League. And it isn't because the the organization has been conducting itself poorly. The NHL, Gary Bettman, and Jim Balsillie are the root causes of this embarrassment.

Why you ask?

Bettman's American experiment is working in some places while failing miserably in others. Phoenix, Tampa Bay, and Florida are just a few places where the experiment has failed.  

The NHL has not been able to latch hockey onto the sporting culture of Phoenix. People aren't watching.

There are several causes for this: The weather, the age of the population, the lack of winter sporting history in the region, and the desire to spend more time doing other activities. 

The league should have been able to see this long before the organization went bankrupt. It was ignored and now, who knows where the team will be next year?

The sheer stubbornness of Bettman is the reason Phoenix is being thrown around like a rag-doll this season. The unbelievable solution suggested to fix the "Balsillie" problem is madness. The NHL cannot own an NHL team. It is an unavoidable conflict of interest.

And finally, Balsillie needs to share just about the same amount of fault for this situation. You don't start selling season seats for a team in Hamilton before you own it. It was a cocky, self-involved, narcissistic move to make.  

Had he not done this, Pittsburgh would be in Hamilton right now, and Phoenix would probably be owned by a different investor, one the NHL and Bettman are on good terms with. Shame on you, Jim. 

The Great One jumped ship, and as well he should have. How do you coach a team with no foreseeable future? How do you conduct the operations of a hockey team when you don't have an owner to report to?

This whole ordeal has just made the NHL look juvenile and unable to run its day-to-day operations in a way befitting a billion dollar industry.  

Bettman needs to swallow his pride and fess-up to his mistakes.  

The NHL needs to support failing teams by allowing them to find markets that can earn them a profit.

And Balsillie needs a hockey team, but also needs to get over himself and apologize for the way he's been conducting himself.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.