Jim Neveau, NHL Correspondent
The last few days have been busy ones for the NHL in terms of the relocation drama surrounding several of its teams. The biggest relocation story for the past two years has been the Phoenix Coyotes. Between going to bankruptcy and the multiple reports that a relocation to Winnipeg was imminent, the team has had immeasurable ups and downs throughout that time, but Tuesday night provided a momentary boost in fortune for the franchise.
The city council of Glendale, Arizona voted in a 5-2 vote to put $25 million into an escrow account to cover financial losses that the team could potentially suffer while the search for a new owner continues. The deal mirrors one that the city reached with the NHL last year, and just last week the league withdrew that original $25 million to eat into the nearly $40 million in losses that the team sustained. There was some community opposition to the deal, but for the most part the consensus among voters and council members was that the money was necessary to help try to protect their arena’s tenant, and they agreed to give themselves one more year to try to keep the team in Arizona long-term.
Of course, the deal still faces some obstacles, as Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer has seemed to indicate that he has already given his best offer for the team, and that deal has not passed the muster of the conservative watchdog group the Goldwater Institute, who has threatened to sue if the city agrees to the deal.
Another development in the Coyotes saga also took place on Tuesday, as Ice Edge Holdings, a group who originally wanted to purchase the team and have them play several games in Saskatoon, Canada but was now searching for a minority stake in the club, announced it was no longer pursuing that route.
Despite those hurdles, the NHL and the team seem optimistic that they can reach a deal to keep the Coyotes in Glendale long-term, and it will be interesting to see how things turn out over the next year or so.
In other relocation news, the New York Islanders may finally be on the right track to stay on Long Island. Long rumored to be considering moving to places from Quebec City to Kansas City, the Islanders have helped put together a plan for a new $350 million arena in Nassau County, and a county-wide vote will take place on August 1st to determine whether or not voters approve the borrowing necessary to make it happen. If agreed to, the deal would keep the Islanders on Long Island through at least 2045, and would also include plans for a new minor league baseball stadium as well.
Charles Wang, owner of the Islanders and long-time proponent of various projects to build an arena to replace the aging Nassau Coliseum, said that he is “extremely confident” that the deal will pass the voters’ muster, and reiterated that “our commitment to Long Island has never wavered.” Wang’s projects to keep the team on Long Island included the infamous Lighthouse Project, which would have cost billions of dollars and could never seem to gain any forward momentum.
Both the Islanders and Coyotes have had good news in the past few days, but one organization that hasn’t is the Columbus Blue Jackets. Over the past two seasons before the 2010-11 campaign, according to The Globe and Mail, the Blue Jackets lost approximately $14 million per season, but this past season was even worse. With the team simultaneously having its highest payroll ever and lowest attendance ever, the Jackets lost a projected $25 million.
According to the Globe and Mail, the team has now lost upwards of $80 million in the six seasons since the NHL lockout, and so to say that they are a team in danger of relocation wouldn’t be an understatement. They may not be at the same level of a team like Phoenix or Atlanta, but their financial situation does put them in quite a predicament.
As always, stay tuned to The Hockey Writers for all of the latest relocation news.