Jim Neveau, Managing Editor
Glendale, Arizona – The saga of the Phoenix Coyotes has taken on some strange and interesting turns over the past few weeks. You have had Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs telling off the NHL and strongly requesting that the league allow the city to make payments on the $25 million it owes the league for keeping the team in Arizona rather than one lump sum. You have had repeated reports that Assistant Commissioner Bill Daly and others are starting to quietly search for alternative homes for the team. You have now even had the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League threatening to sue the city of Glendale for mismanaging parking spots that could cost upwards of 9000 fans their parking lot spaces for the upcoming season.
Amid all of that lunacy, there hasn’t really been a whole lot of off-ice news that has cracked the headlines for the Coyotes. Most of the focus has indeed been on them winning their first division title in the 33 year history of the franchise, and their impending first round matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks. There has also been word spread that only single tickets remain for those first two playoff games, and the tickets for Games 5 and 7 have been released for sale to the public.
All of those things are obviously good news for the club. Being in the playoffs against a historic franchise like Chicago brings in a good deal of tourist dollars to the arena, and even though a good chunk of those tickets sold will go to Blackhawks fans looking to support the team from their old home town, the money still looks the same as it flows into team coffers.
None of those stories, however, can top the story that flew under the radar despite being posted onto the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s website on April 4th. The clip, which is from the CBC show “Strombo”, features an interview with investor Jim Treliving, whose many properties include Boston Pizza, the chain famous for x-ing out its name on the end boards at Rogers Center in Vancouver during last year’s Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins.
At the 9:00 mark of the clip, Treliving is asked about his son Brad, who happens to be the Assistant General Manager of the Phoenix Coyotes. What follows is an interesting mini-discussion about the team, and their potential future in the desert:
For those of you who can’t watch the clip or are one of those folks who prefers reading to watching, here is the exchange:
George Strombolopolous: So tell me the truth: will they be in Quebec next year?
Jim Treliving: No.
GS: Are they going to be in Phoenix?
JT: They are going to be in Phoenix.
GS: Are you going to buy the team?
JT: (Pause) They are going to be in Phoenix. (Pause, audience laughter) They’re going to be in Phoenix.
GS: Let me rephrase that: if you had the opportunity to own part of a franchise in Arizona, is that something you would pursue?
JT: We have some stores in Phoenix. (laughter) I’ve got two Boston Pizzas there.
GS: Really…..Alright, I look forward to having you on the program in September to kick off the new season when you’re the owner of the Phoenix Coyotes then. How does that sound?
JT: You know, Dragon’s Den is going to be starting at the same time. I will be in Toronto.
Obviously, there are several different ways to take this bit of news. The name of Jim Treliving hasn’t exactly been bandied about a whole lot during discussions about buying for the team. Most of the focus has been on names like Greg Jamison, former CEO of the San Jose Sharks, and Jerry Reinsdorf, the current owner of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox. There have been rumors for a while, however, about there being a third bidder in the process, and one almost has to wonder at this point, after hearing that interview and actually seeing the words in print, whether or not Treliving is somehow involved in the negotiations to keep the team in Glendale.
Of course, there is a huge difference between saying unequivocally that you are going to do something and kind of dancing around the issue like Treliving did here. The key thing to remember, however, is that it doesn’t make any sense for him to be merely joking around about something that is going to have a direct bearing on the future of the life of his son Brad. He may have accidentally let the beans slip on something, but the odds are that this wasn’t just something in jest that he threw out there to draw laughs from a crowd.
One other thing that does need to be stressed, however, is that this team is still in bad financial shape, and that keeping them in the desert could just be a one or two year thing, depending on the franchise’s fortunes go in terms of ticket sales if Treliving ends up being the new owner. All along, commissioner Gary Bettman has been adamant that he wants to find a buyer to keep the team in Arizona for the long-term, but with the window closing on this year’s opportunity to get the team out of league control, he may be more willing to take a deal that keeps them in Phoenix for a guaranteed amount of years, say two or three, and then the option to leave once again rests with the owner.
As we have done with all of the other news in this saga, The Hockey Writers will keep you up to date on what is going on with the Coyotes ownership situation, and we steadfastly refuse to be duped by any reports that say conclusively whether or not the team is leaving until we have heard it from the horse’s mouths themselves.
You can follow Jim on Twitter @JimNeveau.
UPDATE: 4/10/2012 2:48pm MST
According to the Phoenix Business Journal, Jim Treliving and his business partner George Melville are indeed involved in last minute talks to buy the Phoenix Coyotes. According to the article, Greg Jamison, former CEO of the San Jose Sharks, is still considered the front runner, and his bid reportedly involves a 10-to-15 year commitment to keep the team in Arizona, as well as some sort of option to buy Jobing.com Arena if the city of Glendale decides to sell it.
The report also says that Treliving and Melville would keep the team in Arizona, but would put forth a shorter commitment to doing so.
For the full article, you can click the link at the beginning of the update. Thanks to Mike Grose, co-host of The Bertrand Berry Show on 1060AM in Phoenix for the heads-up.
UPDATE: 4/10/2012 3:01pm MST
Jim Treliving himself just sent out a couple of tweets disputing the assertion of the Phoenix Business Journal that he is involved in the negotiations for the Coyotes:
“On TV last week I was asked about the future of the# NHL Coyotes This exchange has led 2 some questions about my interest in buying the team”
“I want to be clear that I am not currently involved in any plan to buy the Coyotes and I do not have any information about their future.”
In his interview, he seemed convinced that the Coyotes were going to remain in Glendale next year. His tweets obviously tell a different story, and while he may be playing down hype in his potential interest as a tactic to keep a deal under wraps, it is also plausible that he is telling the truth and he has no knowledge of anything, quite possibly at the behest of his son.
This thing just keeps evolving more and more. Stay tuned.