Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Coyotes Staying Put

Just when you thought it might be time to bring out the U-Haul’s, the Phoenix Coyotes are staying in Glendale…at least for now.

Despite the fact that the team lost a reported $37-million this season and hundreds of millions of dollars overall since moving from Winnipeg to Arizona, the NHL is standing firm in its belief that the NHL-owned club has a future in the state, even if it means being owned by the NHL for another 10 years.

That’s right – after telling us a couple of months ago that “time is running out” on the potential sale of the Coyotes to a buyer who would keep the team in Glendale, the city and the NHL have agreed to extend the “deadline” for another full season. Just like in the last agreement, the city will put aside $25-million to cover the team’s losses in the event that they still can’t find an owner by this time next year.

I hope the NHL didn’t forget its yoga mat, because it’s bending over backwards for the city of Glendale when it should really be the other way around, shouldn’t it?

Why should the league incur any losses in this deal? They could probably turn around and sell the team in a heartbeat to investors in another city, but instead, they took on an estimated $12-million worth of debt this season and have now negotiated their way into taking on more losses next year. The reason? So that people go to the Westgate City Center mall while they’re at Arena and spend money, the sales tax from which goes towards paying off the rink.

Here’s the real kicker though: USA Today reports that this new agreement includes an option for the league to renew the deal on a year-by-year basis for the next ten years!

So to recap, in the past two months we’ve gone from “time is running out,” to allowing Glendale to basically rent the Coyotes from the league while they eat part of the projected losses each year for up to a decade.

Did I miss something? Did the NHL seriously change the deadline from “soon” to “sometime before 2021”?

More food for thought: If the Coyotes can’t draw fans with dirt-cheap tickets, what will happen when a new owner comes on board and has to boost prices in the hopes of turning a profit? If the team can’t bring in a solid base of supporters by providing an entertaining on-ice product and making the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, what hope do they really have? Does anyone really think that hockey is going to all of a sudden catch fire in the desert after 16 years?

I hope the NHLPA is keeping a close eye on this situation too, for the next time they have to sit down with the NHL to bang out a new collective bargaining agreement. Obviously “money ain’t a thing” for the league and its owners if they’re willing to shell out all this cash to prop up a failing franchise, right?

I wonder if the city of Atlanta would be into “renting” the financially challenged Thrashers for a few years?

What do you think: Is this a positive move or do you think the NHL should be exploring other options?

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