Coyotes find a buyer after four years of problems


Jun 30, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Max Domi poses for a photo with team officials after being introduced as the number twelve overall pick to the Phoenix Coyotes during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

As a member of Bruins Nation, I am pleased that the Black and Gold have been a solid fixture in Boston for the last ninety years. While we may not all be fans of Jeremy Jacobs, the team has been a constant presence in the city, and has made generations of fans laugh, cry, and swear violently at their radios and televisions. We’re spoiled really. We have never had to endure the turmoil and pain that fans of the Coyotes have had to endure these last few seasons.

The Phoenix Coyotes. It’s hard for a serious NHL fan to say the name without a slight chuckle or a rolling of the eyes. Back in December 2008, it became public knowledge that the Coyotes were hemorrhaging cash and had to be funded by the NHL. Once the media got a hold of it, they were generally talked down by the NHL. Specifically commissioner Gary Bettman and #2 man Bill Daly. Regardless of the talk that everything was well, it was pretty clear that the day-to-day operations of the Phoenix franchise was now in the hands of the NHL.

Thus began four and a half painful years for Coyotes fans, and to a lesser extant the entire NHL organization. In May 2009, Jerry Moyes (the owner at the time) put the team into bankruptcy. While Moyes had intended to sell the team, he attempted to sell it to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie . Balsillie’s intentions were to get the Coyotes out of insolvency and move them back to Canada. This sale was an attempt to circumvent the NHL’s rules on the movement of franchises.

Bettman clamped down on the Coyotes and refused to move. For the next few years, any and all attempts to move the struggling franchise out of a bad hockey market was met by either childish petulance or myopic obstinacy.  Phoenix was Bettman’s baby, and he was going to cling to that sinking ship no matter how many people got hurt trying to throw a life line out to it.

It was a mess. The city of Glendale wasn’t willing to move, and Bettman was committed to this disaster. Even a threat to move the team to Winnipeg for the 2010-11 season did nothing to break the dead lock. Half a dozen offers came and went. The league didn’t like the offers, or the city could agree on them. The Coyotes staggering losses (some years exceeding forty million dollars(US)) had turned them into the laughing stock of the NHL.

Yesterday, the four and a half year nightmare that was the Coyotes may have finally come to an end. The NHL, the city of Glendale and the IceArizona group all agreed on a plan to remove the franchise from NHL control and hopefully get the club on the road to profitability. Gary Bettman expressed his happiness over this purchase in a statement.

“The National Hockey League believes in Arizona as an NHL market and that these new owners can provide the Coyotes the opportunity to secure a stable, long-term future in Glendale. We thank Mike Nealy, Don Maloney, Dave Tippett, team captain Shane Doan and all the players and staff for consistently going ‘above and beyond’ on behalf of the franchise during this long and complex process. We thank the Coyotes’ devoted fans for their patient, perseverant support. We are extremely pleased that a positive resolution has been achieved for the fans, the city, the Coyotes and the League.”

(After all this, the name of the franchise will be changed officially to the Arizona Coyotes some time after the end of the season.)

One of the new owners expressed his happiness through social media.

“I’m ecstatic,” new Coyotes chairman and governor George Gosbee said on a conference call. “It was a complicated transaction, probably one of the most complicated transactions I’ve worked on in 21 years in the financial business, but a lot of hard of work and support kept us going through the process. Now we can start focusing on what matters and that’s building a winning organization here in the Valley.”

Honestly, I hope it works out. Now granted, there is a back out clause that allows the owners to jump ship if they incur more than fifty million dollars of losses (and that is likely to happen.) However, this new ownership group seems committed to Bettman’s plan to keep hockey in the desert come hell or high debt ceiling.

Gosbee spelled out his intentions clearly. “Nobody in my group talks about moving or where we would move. Half the guys have financial or real estate interests in Arizona, and some are moving or retiring down there. We think the model works, and there are lots of attributes that make Phoenix attractive. I want to own this team for the next 30 to 40 years in Arizona.”

Hopefully, the Coyotes can have a modicum of stability in their franchise now. They can always look to the Bruins as an example if needed.