CHICAGO – NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says it’s possible the Phoenix Coyotes could relocate if a new ownership group can’t reach a deal to keep the team in Glendale, Ariz.
The Coyotes’ unstable situation appears to be the biggest issue facing the league, and commissioner Gary Bettman said “time is getting short” finding a solution to keep the team in Arizona.
“It’s been a complicated process,” Bettman said Wednesday before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final. “We, in our minds, understand that we’re dealing with a time frame, but a specific day isn’t going to do it. But time is getting short and this is really going to be a decision that the city of Glendale is going to have to make.”
Daly said the 2013-14 schedule will be released a bit later than usual in part because of the uncertainty surrounding the Coyotes.
“It certainly means that it’s possible that the team won’t play there next year,” Daly said. “We’re in the short strokes in Phoenix now.”
Asked about Quebec City, Bettman refused to speculate on potential landing spots for the Coyotes.
“We’re still focused on making it work with the Coyotes staying in Arizona,” he said. “I don’t want to begin the process, particularly publicly, where there’s going to be a lot of speculation as to where the team might go if it moved because all that would do would be to unfairly raise expectation in places.”
Seattle, Southern Ontario and Kansas City are among other areas considered ripe for relocation. But Bettman and Daly emphasized, as they did with the Atlanta Thrashers, that moving any team is a last resort.
“No matter how this plays out, I don’t think anybody can accuse us of kind of (taking) a grass-is-greener approach to this,” Daly said. “We’ve been committed to this market; we’ve done everything humanly possible to make this franchise work in this market, and now’s the time we’re going to find out whether that works.”
Bettman and Daly put the pressure on the Glendale city council, even when not revealing any hard deadlines. That city council meets June 25 and the board of governors convenes June 27.
Asked if there must be a decision in place by that June 27 meeting, Bettman said “maybe.” In that time, he said, “stuff is going to happen,” and there could be a resolution before then.
In the meantime, the NHL must consider contingency plans. According to the commissioner, there are no shortage of markets or owners that would be willing to take the Coyotes.
“There are a number of markets that have been expressing interest to us over the years and the phone keeps ringing more regularly the longer that the Coyotes situation stays unresolved,” Bettman said.
Bettman wouldn’t confirm whether putting the team on hiatus was a possibility, saying only there was a “myriad of options.”
The Coyotes were reportedly sold to a Canadian-led ownership group which is negotiating with the city of Glendale for a lease at the Jobing.com Arena.
“I think everybody knows kind of what’s on the table, and I think the puck is pretty much in the city of Glendale’s end with respect to how they’re going to deal with that,” Daly said.
The same could be said for NHL players’ participation in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Bettman said the NHL Players’ Association had more issues unresolved with getting a deal done but added that it is being worked out “together.”
“We’re optimistic that we can get it done, but it isn’t done yet,” Bettman said. “Until it’s all done, it isn’t done.”