Before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly discussed the Phoenix Coyotes ownership situation. That’s Bettman for you. Nothing quite says ‘respect the tradition of an original six match-up’ like going on and on over Bettman’s biggest mistake(the work stoppages during his career not withstanding) in his tenure at the head of the NHL. The NHL bought the Coyotes out of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 2009 and has tried without success to find a buyer who would keep the team in Arizona. Well, it looks like the NHL might be willing to give up this particular fantasy at last. The problem is that Bettman has once again chosen to make another royally bad idea that just happens to involve the Coyotes.
The following information comes from Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy:
During CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada Hotstove segment Saturday, the future plans of the Coyotes became a bit clearer, with a report that Plan B for the franchise to a move to Seattle.
According to Elliotte Friedman, the Vancouver Canucks, who announced on Friday that their AHL team was moving to Utica, N.Y., originally had planned to put it in Seattle in KeyArena. Turns out, they were told “it was not available for hockey,” reported Friedman.
In a twist, turns out it is available for hockey: NHL hockey, that is. Plan B for the NHL and Coyotes, if the latest candidate doesn’t go through with the purchase, is to sell the team to investors Ray Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza, who previously engaged in discussions to purchase a 49-percent stake in the New York Mets in 2011, for $220 million. According to Glenn Healy, if those two do not get what they want by July 2 from the city of Glendale, then they would move the team to The Emerald City. Part of the new ownership group would be former NHLer and current NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick, who would help run the hockey operations department.
So, it only took four years of NHL receivership for the league to realize that the great sun-belt experiment was not going to work out after all. So, rather than move the franchise to Ontario (where a billion dollar Toronto Maple Leafs franchise sits.) where they could make substantial financial gain, or even Quebec City (former and hopefully soon again home of the Nordiques franchise, where there is still a deep love for the sport and a desire by companies and the province to work together to get a club again.) the NHL has decided that it’s a good idea to go to Seattle.
Seattle. Seriously? Why? Because thanks to the extended legal battle between former owner Jerry Moyes and the NHL, there is now legal precedence allowing the NHL to determine which cities can or can not have a NHL hockey franchise. So once again Bettman would like to hemorrhage a little more money out of the league, sell another city a bunch of false promises, and doom this particular NHL team to the perennial role of the league’s red headed stepchild.
The irony of all this is that the NHL made the Coyotes in order to save the original Winnipeg Jets (the former name of the Coyotes club) from this sort of fate. Back then Winnipeg was the smallest market in the NHL when the Quebec Nordiques left Canada to become the Colorado Avalanche. Bettman decided to play ‘hockey God’ and attempt another successful transplant. The success that came for Colorado (Stanley Cup wins in ’95-’96 and ’00-’01) were not to be found for Phoenix. (A division win in 2012 led to a 4-1 conference final defeat at the hands of the LA Kings.) Yet Bettman persisted keeping the team in Arizona, even though the losses were piling up and the league was losing money hand over fist to keep them there.
So, if plan “A” fails (A plan for Canadian investors to buy the team BUT keep it in Glendale.), they’ll finally relent to move the struggling team from the southwest (where there are only the Kings and the San Jose Sharks), and move it up to the northwest (where there is nothing.). Seattle’s reception to the Coyotes 2.0 will be lukewarm at best, and it will put the league back in the same position it is currently in within a few years time. Then what? Convince the Board of Governors to raise ticket prices another few percentage points to cover the operating expenses of a team that couldn’t make it in three different cities? Sadly, that’s very likely what will happen.
So, the next time we’re at TD Garden buying a back row section 305 seats for $250 a piece, and choking down a $11 hot dog with a $10 8 oz beer, we won’t just hate owner (and President of the Board of NHL Governors) Jeremy Jacobs, we’ll hate the league for the irresponsible choices for making those prices necessary.