NEW YORK, N.Y. – The NHL is threatening to relocate the Phoenix Coyotes if Glendale city council doesn’t approve a new arena deal for the franchise by July 2.
That was commissioner Gary Bettman’s strong stance Thursday after a board of governors meeting that included an update on the Coyotes’ situation but not much else in the way of progress, as the league waits on the process in Arizona.
Renaissance Sports&Entertainment has agreed to buy the team, but everything is contingent on an arena management deal getting done.
“If the council doesn’t approve it so that this transaction can close, I don’t think the Coyotes will be playing there anymore,” Bettman said.
Strengthening his position from the Stanley Cup final—the original target for the city of Glendale to finish the deal—Bettman explained that the NHL has “lots of options” if the Coyotes must relocate, even if that plan B hasn’t yet been ironed out.
“I find it difficult to conceive of why, if the council turns this down, we would want to keep the team in Glendale any longer,” Bettman said. “And so we will then, if they turn it down, have to deal with the possibilities and the options that will be available to us, and they are numerous.”
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly didn’t want to get into specific cities that could get the Coyotes if keeping the team in Glendale doesn’t work out. Asked specifically about Seattle’s Key Arena, he said it could house an NHL team. Asked about Quebec City being an option, Daly said, “I wouldn’t rule it out.”
“I think we tried to be clear that obviously there are a number of alternatives, and we have to decide which one is best for us in the short term,” Daly said.
The short term would begin in 2013-14. Bettman and Daly confirmed there is enough time to move the Coyotes to another city without them playing a lame-duck season in Glendale.
If the Coyotes move, the conference and division alignments won’t change, according to Daly, even if it means a less-than-ideal situation like what the Winnipeg Jets went through after moving from Atlanta. Not knowing whether the Coyotes will be in Glendale or somewhere else is holding up the release of the next NHL schedule.
But so is completion of an agreement to send NHL players to the Olympics in Sochi in 2014. Bettman said the board of governors gave him authority to get a deal done and that there’s a meeting Monday in New York “to hopefully conclude that.”
The board discussed rule changes such as hybrid icing being tested in pre-season and visors being made mandatory for incoming players, but Bettman declined to give details as to whether they were approved, deferring to the NHLPA, which meets next week and must formally approve them.
The Coyotes’ situation obviously drew the most attention. Colorado Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic said the board was “brought up to speed” but declined to reveal much more.
At this point, the NHL has to wait.
“We’re anticipating or hoping that the Glendale City Council passes the proposed deal with the Renaissance group for the operation of the building and the club playing there going forward,” Bettman said. “That’s an essential ingredient to this moving forward.”