Jim Neveau, Managing Editor
Glendale, Arizona – Over the course of three years, the Phoenix Coyotes have been the subject of bankruptcy hearings, relocation chatter, and general sniping from all areas of the hockey world. Fans throughout Canada and the US have both blasted commissioner Gary Bettman and company for going to such great lengths to keep the team in Arizona and have lauded their efforts after the quick franchise turnarounds that saw the Winnipeg Jets and Quebec Nordiques head south of the border in the 1990’s.
Once again, after so many false starts both toward a new home and toward entrenching themselves in their current digs at Jobing.com Arena, an announcement may once again be imminent with this team. It has been long reported that former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison has been negotiating to purchase the team from the NHL and keep them in the Valley, and now, according to several reports, the league is getting ready to announce just that.
Reports surfaced late Sunday night that Jamison will be in Arizona along with Bettman on Monday to announce the parameters of a new deal that would keep the team in Phoenix for the long-term. This was met with the usual mix of derision from relocation proponents and joy from long-suffering fans of the team, and it seems appropriate that such a momentous announcement could come on a night when the Coyotes have the potential to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in team history.
Mike Sunnucks of the Phoenix Business Journal and Fox 10 Arizona both reported the story, but Glendale City Councilwoman Joyce Clark tweeted that no hockey deal will be put on the Council’s agenda for their scheduled meeting on Tuesday. By law, the city can put an item on the agenda as little as 24 hours before the scheduled start time of the meeting, but with the group Goldwater Institute still probing any potential deal for violations of the state’s gift clause, it seems unlikely that an 11th hour addition to the agenda would take place.
As a reminder of GWI’s influence, Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer’s group had an agreement in place to purchase the team at one point, but that came undone as the Goldwater group protested the subsidies and bond sales that the deal included.
The lack of ownership stability has long been seen as a roadblock to the team finding success in Glendale, and the financial straits the team finds itself in speak for themselves. The team has been losing an average of $20 to $25 million a year for several years now, and the city of Glendale has had to issue two payments of $25 million to the league over the past two seasons to keep the team in Arizona while a deal has been worked on.
Team attendance has also dwindled over that time as rumors of relocation to cities like Winnipeg and Quebec City have constantly dogged the club. The team on the ice hasn’t let that distract them, however, and they have made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, with this one being the first time they have advanced.
With a competitive product on the ice, all sorts of new fans showing up at the arena and at the airport to greet the team when they return from road trips, and more press coverage than has ever been bestowed upon the club, it seems as though a new chapter may finally be getting underway for this long-suffering organization. As has always been the case, it is better to be cautious than to give way to euphoria when it comes to any side of the argument over the Coyotes’ future in the desert, but as of this moment, the pendulum has swung once again, but this time, it’s in favor of the city that has fought so hard to keep them.
In Other News
The Colorado Avalanche are going to be one busy team when it comes to preseason games in exotic locales. Assuming that there isn’t a lockout, the Avs will be visiting two different cities that have been rumored as sites for NHL relocation in recent years.
The Avalanche will start their cross-country journey by taking on the Los Angeles Kings in a game at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on September 29th. The event kicks off a five year deal that the Kings signed with the resort to play an annual preseason game there as part of the “Frozen Fury” series. The Kings first played in Las Vegas back in 1997.
In addition to that tilt, Colorado will also head to the Sprint Center in Kansas City on October 6th to battle the New York Rangers. The arena has been without a signature tenant since it opened, and it has been repeatedly mentioned as a contender for either an NBA or NHL franchise.
These two games join another preseason tilt in a potential relocation city with the previously announced game between the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils on October 2nd at the sparkling new Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. The arena will be home to the New Jersey Nets starting next season, and there have been rumors swirling for a while now that the arena might make a sizable push to get the Islanders to move in, considering the deplorable condition of the Isles’ current home at the Nassau Coliseum.
These games will all provide a potential showcase for cities looking to get in on any relocation or expansion that the league intends to do over the next several years, and it will be interesting to see the kind of impressions that each city leaves on the teams and writers that descend upon them in the run-up to the 2012-13 regular season.
“Relocation Roulette” is a series of articles penned by Jim Neveau as a way of keeping track of all the latest rumblings and grumblings surrounding teams like the Phoenix Coyotes and New York Islanders who are rumored to be on the block to switch cities.
You can follow Jim on Twitter here (@JimNeveau), and stay tuned to The Hockey Writers for all the latest updates as news breaks.