Jim Neveau, Managing Editor / Phoenix Coyotes Correspondent
It may seem as though we have been hearing about the ownership situation involving the Phoenix Coyotes forever, but the fact is that we nearly have been. For going on three years now, the team has been battling to stay in the Valley despite opposition from groups like the Goldwater Institute and a seeming inability to nail down a final deal with any prospective owners.
That failure to agree may finally have come to an end when former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison agreed to a new lease with the city of Glendale on Jobing.com Arena as part of his plan to purchase the team, but GWI certainly has not been willing to go down without a fight. They filed an injunction to stop the deal, and have organized a petition drive to force the issue onto the November ballot, which is something that both the league and the city seem opposed to, and with good reason.
Even though things have been in a state of stasis for quite some time now, the fact of the matter is that both sides just want the issue settled so that they can focus on putting a quality product on the ice in Glendale that people will be willing to come and see, but the opposition forces rising up in protest of the new deal are concerned that this is a rush job in order to get things done, and to pull a fast one on taxpayers.
Whether that is actually the case or not, Judge Robert Fink issued a ruling on the issue yesterday afternoon, saying that the deal negotiated by the city with Jamison is valid and should go forward. The deal includes an arena management fee of around $15 million a year, and while the GWI thought that was excessive, Fink disagreed, saying that:
“Although there may be no recognized academic degree in arena management, plainly a wide range of specialized knowledge, predominantly mental or intellectual, is critical to success in the field. The Court finds that the arena management contract calls for the provision of professional services and therefore falls outside the scope of the Purchasing Ordinance.”
That last sentence is the crucial one, because that was the legal argument that GWI was using. They said that since the city was entering into a contract, they should have been legally bound to have open bidding for it, but Judge Fink said that the deal did not fall under the auspices of that government practice, thereby handing a significant victory to the cause of the city of Glendale.
Goldwater still does have a bullet in their gun, however, and that is the petition they are circulating in order to force the issue onto the November ballot. The group has until July 9th to gather nearly 1900 signatures from registered Glendale voters, and if the signatures are upheld after a review process to determine the eligibility of those signing, then the measure would go on the ballot, and the sale would be put on hold in the mean time.
While this decision by Fink is certainly a victory for the Coyotes’ chances of staying in Arizona (and, as Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy pointed out, a potential roadblock-lifter toward Jamison raising enough capital to complete the deal), the team is still not out of the woods yet in its sale process. The taxpayers of Glendale will ultimately get the final say, so as we have been forced to say on oh so many occasions over the last three years, we are now forced to play the waiting game.
Meanwhile, On the Ice….
Outside of the ownership resolution being sought, there is perhaps no bigger story facing the Phoenix Coyotes than the future of captain Shane Doan with the team. He has been with the club since they were in Winnipeg in the mid-90’s, but as free agency approaches beginning on Sunday, he still has not signed a new deal with the team, and might very well be looking to move elsewhere next season.
This speculation has hit a lot of Coyotes fans hard, and with good reason. No player has embodied the chippy and physical spirit of this team as they have thrived under head coach Dave Tippett more than Doan has, and if he were to leave, the effect it could potentially have on the team would be earth-moving, to say the least.
There have been a slew of teams who have expressed interest in Doan, including the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, and Pittsburgh Penguins, according to reports. Other teams like the New York Rangers and Dallas Stars could also weasel their way into the mix, but no team has garnered more attention for a potential run at Doan than the Jets, in the city where he began his career in 1995.
While the Coyotes have said repeatedly that their overall goal is to convince Doan to remain in Phoenix, the fact of the matter is that his decision to at least test free agency means that there is a very real possibility that he will leave. This would be a weird transition being that he has been with the team since its birth, but it could also be viewed as somewhat of a positive for both sides.
For the Coyotes, it could be just the excuse they need to engage in a fresh start in their new direction as the Arizona Coyotes (which would take place likely next year). Starting new traditions with new faces is a thrilling prospect for a new owner coming onto the scene, and while the transition away from the Doan era would be painful, it’s entirely possible that some real good could come out of it on that end.
As for Doan, a move to a more stable franchise could very well be just the thing he needs to resurrect his career. With a suspension and a career low in points last season, Doan may be looking at one or two more serious runs at the championship that has eluded him throughout his career, and joining a team like Pittsburgh, who is eying Zach Parise, or Chicago, with youngsters like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane still entering the prime of their careers, could be just the ticket to hoist hockey’s holy chalice.
Of course, all of this speculation could be for naught, and Doan may very well end up staying in the Valley, but even if he leaves, it isn’t all gloom and doom, contrary to what some fans seem to be thinking at the moment.
James started out for The Hockey Writers covering the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009, and has also covered the Chicago Blackhawks, served as NHL Correspondent, and is now a Managing Editor and the site’s NHL Central Blogger. He also writes for The Golf Writers.