“I JUST LOVE THIS DRY HEAT!”
The saga of the Phoenix Coyotes is a long and troubled one. Moved from the much more hockey-friendly confines of Winnipeg in 1996, Phoenix has had trouble gaining much traction with the local population, failing to post a single profitable season since coming to the desert. Not even the Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky, could turn this Phoenix thing into a profitable draw. The NHL was forced to buy the team out of bankruptcy in 2009, and have been looking for a new ownership group that would keep the team where it is…and have failed miserably. Now, after three years of league control, it looks like Gary Bettman has finally found the next person to lose money on hockey in the desert…unless a Phoenix-based citizen advocacy group has anything to say about it.
A conservative watchdog group plans to ask a judge for a temporary restraining order Friday to prevent a Glendale City Council vote on a lease agreement that would clear the way for the sale of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes.
”The city of Glendale plans to consider what is estimated to be a $425 million arena management deal for Jobing.com Arena,” Goldwater Institute president Darcy Olsen said in a statement. ”Arizona’s Open Meetings Law and multiple court orders require the city to make public all documents related to the proposed contract at least 24 hours before a council vote is taken, which it has not done.
”The 100-page deal released on Monday refers to a number of exhibits that are central to analyzing the impact of the deal on Glendale’s finances, which the city must make public,” Olsen added.
This is the second time that the Goldwater Institute has gotten involved in the prospective sale of the Coyotes. Last year, Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer withdrew from his prospective bid because of threats of legal action by the group. Now, it’s prospective owner Craig Jamison’s turn to deal with them. Welcome to Phoenix!
The group’s main issue with the proposed sale includes a stipulation in the lease agreement (which happens to be the linchpin holding the entire deal together) that would pay Jamison $17 million per year for upkeep and operations of the arena. The deal is much more favorable for the team than the current lease…which doesn’t actually exist. The Coyotes played this season, in which they won their division and went all the way to the Western Conference Finals, renting ice-time in their home arena in between open skate and private birthday parties. So, the team can’t even use their own ice when they want to, the new owner won’t buy unless he gets the operational costs of the arena paid for him, and the local watchdog group doesn’t want any taxpayer money to go to the team. Does anybody but Bettman really want hockey in Phoenix at this point?
At the end of the day, there are plenty of other cities that would be much better hockey hotbeds than the dry desolate desert of Phoenix, Arizona. Seattle, for instance, has a loyal hockey fanbase that would love to have a team they didn’t have to cross the 48th parallel to cheer for, and they’re working on a brand new NHL/NBA friendly arena as we speak. Or even easier, Canada could probably support another three teams and sell out an arena for the next decade. Quebec City has had a line around the block to pay the NHL money since the Nordiques left for Colorado in 1995, for crying out loud!
But Gary Bettman hates Canada, or something, because he’d rather lose a foot than give a team to Canada. He looked like he was about to chew through his tongue when the Thrashers left Atlanta for Winnipeg. Bettman seems stuck in this delusion that because the USA is bigger than Canada, hockey in a US city will be bigger than a Canadian one. Obviously flawed logic aside, some places just aren’t going to support hockey, and Phoenix looks like one of those places. Gary Bettman won’t admit that, though, so look forward to your league-owned Phoenix Coyotes in 2013! Come on out to see them…as long as there aren’t any birthday parties planned.