Well, no one said this would be easy.
In a bit of a curve ball thrown today, it appears that the NHL and the City of Glendale have agreed to extend the deadline to find a new owner for the Phoenix Coyotes for one more year. Reports have led many to believe that the team was on the verge of moving back to Winnipeg as early as this upcoming season. Although Manitoba is still a possible destination, it won’t be for 2011-12.
The fate of the team now rests in the hands of the Glendale City Council to decide whether or not it is fiscally responsible for Glendale to accept the extension, which would then put them on the hook to pick up another $25 million tab it must pay the NHL for the Coyotes’ losses. They already owe $25 million for this season.
If the council decides not to agree to this deal, the Coyotes appear to be heading back to where it all began, in Winnipeg. If it passes, it gives Glendale a little more time to try to find an owner willing to keep the team in Arizona, such as Matt Hulsizer, the Chicago businessman who has expressed his desire to not only purchase the Coyotes franchise, but keep them in Phoenix.
Voting comes down Tuesday.
The biggest issue for the city is the $25 million for this season and next. The money would come from tax-payers, many of which don’t have much interest in hockey if you take a look at Phoenix attendance sheets. According to ESPN, the ‘Yotes came in 29 of 30 teams this season, averaging just over 12,000 per game. Not much to howl about.
According to the Winnipeg Sun, reports are leaking that the NHL is willing to reduce the price of the Coyotes for a prospective buyer, or differ some of the costs. It makes you wonder why they’re not simply allowing True North Sports, the Winnipeg group interested in purchasing the franchise, to buy the team.
Hulsizer originally had an agreement in place to purchase the team for $170 million with $100 million coming from Glendale bond sales. That didn’t happen. He also said he would cover the $25 million Glendale would owe the league, based on the agreement that he’d own the team by Jan. 1. That, obviously, did not happen either.
Reports also leaked Friday that Hulsizer was possibly getting cold feet on the whole purchase, and may be looking at other NHL clubs that are for sale or in poor shape. There are plenty, such as Atlanta Thrasher, New York Islanders, but the team at the forefront are the St. Louis Blues. Those reports have since been denied by Hulsizer’s camp.
The Trashers have now emerged as a possible candidate to be purchased by True North Sports and moved up north to Winnipeg. The Thrasher franchise bleeds money hand-over-foot, and current owners Atlanta Spirit want out of the venture.
As time ticks by, every party involved is being crunched. True North and the city of Winnipeg want a franchise and they want one for 2011-12. The longer this plays out, the harder that goal will be, most notably for schedule making that will begin in the coming weeks. It’s difficult to make a schedule with three teams in location limbo.
Phoenix and their fans don’t know what to make of the situation. It seemed all but destined following their 4-0 sweep at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings two weeks ago that their fate was sealed. Now, things are looking a little brighter for possibly one more schedule turn.
Atlanta is now in the same boat as Phoenix. Ownership wants to wash their hands of the whole operation, but cannot move forward until the dust settles in the desert.
As I said earlier, it is strange for the NHL to not rid themselves of the situation and sell the franchise to True North. Some have stated that Phoenix’s market is stronger than Winnipeg’s, and that is true to an extent. But the numbers don’t lie. Phoenicians simply aren’t spending their money to see the Coyotes.
The clock is ticking on one of these franchises to flatline.