With the Board of Governors meetings underway in Palm Beach, Florida one of the biggest topics of discussion is team ownership and potential teams being sold. As expected, the team taking up the spotlight in such talks are the Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes are still owned by the 29 other NHL teams but with Chicago financier Matthew Hulsizer stepping into the fray as the savior du jour in Phoenix the mood and opinions surrounding the situation seems to be better, if not totally guarded.
Today, Hulsizer was introduced to the Board of Governors by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and expressed his thoughts and ideas on what he’ll do if he’s approved to be the next owner of the Coyotes. Just the fact that he’s got an organized plan set in front of him makes the possibility of him becoming the full-time savior of hockey in the desert a glowing prospect. Noted critic of hockey in Arizona, David Shoalts has the update from Florida on how Hulsizer is at least saying things to generate discussion.
“It’s been my experience that if you make a great product, hockey teams have a lot of value,” he said after emerging from a meeting with the NHL governors’ executive committee. “Those things tend to grow over time. I tend to be a longer-term investor. As I look out 25 years, I think people will look back and say, ‘Hey, that might have looked smart.’
“Right now, it’s not going to look smart for a long time, though.”
At the very least it’s a ballsy thing for Hulsizer to admit and refreshingly truthful. Previous attempted buyers of the team were looking at the Coyotes situation and trying to break even financially right away and eventually turning a profit. Guys like Jerry Reinsdorf and Ice Edge Holdings were looking at things as a means to be immediate saviors in Glendale. Going into this purchase with a long term game plan makes more sense because you’re basing things in reality.
Of course, coming out and saying you’re expecting to take a bath financially-speaking can make people nervous, especially the NHL considering how former owner Jerry Moyes attempted to bail out of controlling the team by sidestepping the NHL and selling the team out from under their noses to Blackberry maven Jim Balsillie. At the very least, they can’t accuse Hulsizer of having unrealistic expectations if he’s thinking that he’ll be losing money for years to come. The NHL Executive Board is convinced that he’s their man as they voted unanimously to approve of him.
Of course, the hangup here is that Hulsizer still needs to be approved by the City of Glendale. The city council is looking to meet on December 14th to discuss Hulsizer and approve him for a new lease on Jobing.com Arena. The NHL set a December 31st deadline for folks in Glendale to get things worked out or else they’ll seek suitors that are willing to move the team out of Arizona, of which we know of the True North group that wants to take the team to Winnipeg. There’s nothing quite like getting things down to the wire in order to spur action.
If Hulsizer isn’t approved for a new lease or things go awry elsewhere, expect the Winter Classic to turn from what should be a media party to celebrate the game into a constant quiz-fest for Gary Bettman to field questions about the Coyotes future. At the very least, he’s used to dealing with those questions by now.