Just because True North has found their team and brought the NHL back to Winnipeg, the Coyotes situation in Arizona still hasn’t been magically solved for the league. Potential owner Matthew Hulsizer dropped his bid to buy the struggling franchise on June 27 and the league has not publically announced any new potential suitors. There have been rumors of Jerry Reinsdorf (yet again) and even a new “mystery buyer,” but still no concrete, public offers to classify anyone as the front-runner.
It certainly seems like we’ve heard this story before.
For the first time throughout the four year fiasco in the desert, the city of Glendale may be seriously considering life after the Coyotes. Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs openly wondered in an interview if it was time to “look at what the alternative looks like?” Here are a few key quotes from Mayor Scruggs in an interview with 12 News in Phoenix:
“It’s disappointing from the aspect that of all the people who have owned the team and all of the people who have shown an interest in buying the team, he would have been the best owner.”
“Mr. Bettman felt that the Goldwater Institute’s threat of a lawsuit might make the sale to Mr. Hulsizer invalidated in the future.”
“At some point, and I have reached that point, we have to say ‘this is the situation the way it is, we must move on, and we must look at options.’ That’s where I’ve moved to at this point. However, now I believe the only realistic thing to do is to take a look, for all of us as elected officials, to take a look at: what would life be like with no team in the arena. What would costs be for the city of Glendale? That’s our building. We have to make the most of it. We have to make it as productive as possible… we can’t walk away from it. So someone has to pay the expenses of managing it and that may be the city of Glendale. It’s time for us to see what that looks like.”
“All I’m saying now is the way this whole situation has progressed from the time the team went into bankruptcy until the NHL bought it, until ‘exciting buyer’ one after another went by the wayside, isn’t it time for us to look at what the alternative looks like?”
The interview is an important development because it’s the first time a public official has openly wondered about a post-Coyotes era. People around North America (particular Winnipeg) and talked about a Coyote-less Arizona for quite some time because of the outsider’s perception that it’s just not working. Ignoring the argument whether hockey can succeed in the Phoenix market, this is the first time we’ve heard a major decision maker concede that a deal may not get done. Can you imagine the celebrations in the streets if True North hadn’t already bought the Atlanta Thrashers?
The good news for hockey fans in Arizona is they city hit the snooze button on the situation when the city council dropped $25 million for another year of Coyotes hockey. But the payment wasn’t a solution—it was temporarily postponing the need for a deal. At some point, the NHL is going to have to find a feasible deal in Arizona or open themselves to the possibility of ownership groups who want to move the team. Since Winnipeg’s thirst for NHL hockey has been quenched, the vultures aren’t circling like they were a few months ago. But the situation will have to be remedied by the end of next season because it’s unlikely the city of Glendale will be willing to shell out another $25 million temporary solution.
For the first time, the mayor has accepted the possibility that the Coyotes may not be a permanent resident in Glendale. If there were any potential buyers out there waiting for the very last minute, this would be their cue.
The clock is ticking.