Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The $25 Million Question

Even though that total may be much higher than $25 million now, the question still holds the same grout: Why Phoenix? Or better yet... Why Glendale? The Phoenix Coyotes have been owned by the NHL for nearly 2 years now, and more problems concerning the sale of the team keep cropping up... and 2 years after the mess started, we're still in it. With the mounting desire of ownership in Atlanta to sell and get out, and the ownership saga in Dallas, the question raised is: Why is the NHL so steadfast about Phoenix, and not Atlanta or Dallas?

Its root cause may be ownership problems from 4 years ago. Jim Balsillie went after the Penguins and failed, and then he went after the Predators and failed. So naturally, he thought the third time was the charm and went after Phoenix. The problem was... the NHL had sniffed out his ticket sale plan in Hamilton before the Preds were sold, so they were suspicious. With the backroom bankruptcy of the team, the NHL had to swoop in. The situation mounted, and with one failed ownership attempt and possibly a second on the way, we are now in the daily hurricane of Coyotes to Winnipeg rumors. With the Glendale city council planning essentially one year stays with the debt payments to the NHL, many have termed the Coyotes tenure in Phoenix toast. But everytime it looks bleak, they get a favor from Glendale, and they stay.

In Atlanta, the franchise was not thrown into a ridiculous bankruptcy case, although the ownership group did go through some pretty marked troubles in court. But then, Atlanta Spirit wanted to keep the team, and the NHL backed off. Now, they want out and there is no apparent ownership group willing to step up to keep the team in Atlanta -- the Balkan doesn't count-- and the NHL has to act. But with their preoccupation in Phoenix, there is no time to put Atlanta to the forefront. Or even Dallas for that matter, with the saga involving Tom Hicks.

It doesn't look like the Stars are going anywhere, and if the vote in Glendale city council approves the $25 million to pay the NHL, the Coyotes aren't going anywhere either. If that vote goes through, the Thrashers could be on the fast track to Winnipeg, and with the relocation fees paid, the NHL is back to business with the Coyotes. If the Thrashers do leave, many will wonder why they were not "saved" by the NHL. Well...

Maybe the NHL didn't want to make the same mistake twice. Maybe because of the quicksand nature of the Coyotes situation, the NHL couldn't get out fast enough to save the Thrashers. Or, it could be that Gary Bettman just hates Canada... yeah right.

The cases are completely unique and different, and comparison does no good for anyone. However it ends up, the Coyotes saga was something the NHL had to deal with, and the Thrashers situation was less pressing and less public.

Why Phoenix? The NHL had no choice.

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