Hockey fans everywhere are undoubtedly sleeping much better these days knowing the NHL will not lose $25 million operating the Phoenix Coyotes next season.
It was truly wonderful to see the men and women who represent the taxpayers of Glendale, after talking tough about standing up to the NHL, unanimously approve $25 million in guarantees to the league for next season if it can’t come up with a buyer by June 30. Council member Phil Lieberman, one of the blowhards who came out swinging prior to the vote, said he was swayed by a seven-year-old Coyotes fan, which should prompt all the business and home owners of Glendale to send their kids running to Lieberman to beg him to lower their parents’ property taxes.
Let this be a cautionary tale to cities that believe it would be a good idea to throw hundreds of millions of dollars into a publicly funded arena. Had the city of Glendale not spent $180 million of their taxpayers’ hard-earned money on the Jobing.com Arena in the first place, they wouldn’t have been put in this untenable position.
Of course, had that not happened, the Coyotes might be playing where they belong in a rink in downtown Phoenix, a place where they might have a fighting chance of succeeding. Instead, as we all know, the plan by former Coyotes owner Steve Ellman has failed miserably and Jerry Moyes was brought in to bail out the franchise.
Moyes has generally been vilified by the NHL for dragging the league into bankruptcy court, but painting him as the bad guy in all of this is unfair. In fact, the NHL should be thanking him for what he did because if it hadn’t happened, the city of Glendale would never have been put in the position where it was forced to give the Coyotes concessions in the first place.
Whenever Moyes or the NHL had issues with the unworkable lease at the arena, all they ever got from Glendale was sympathy for their hardship. But they were always told a lease is a lease and this one is unbreakable. That all changed in bankruptcy court when Judge Redfield T. Baum made it clear the Coyotes would be able to get out of their lease if local buyers couldn’t be found.
For the NHL, that was a windfall of biblical proportions. Now the league and any future buyers of the Coyotes have the leverage of being able to rework the lease. It also gave the NHL the ability to threaten to move the Coyotes prior to next season if they didn’t receive an insurance policy to the tune of $25 million.
And it all happened because of Jerry Moyes and, to a lesser extent, Jim Balsillie. And let’s not forget that before selling to Balsillie, Moyes absorbed more than $300 million in personal losses keeping the Coyotes afloat.
All of which leads us to one more question. If the NHL now essentially has the vast majority of its losses covered for next season, why is there such a rush to get a deal closed with Ice Edge or anyone else? The NHL just bought itself another year, so why not cut a deal with the city to have the lease redone and then see if there might be any other buyers out there?
Moyes gave them that time. No reason why they shouldn’t use it.
NO THANKS, DON
So Don Cherry says he would invest in an NHL team in Winnipeg. If it ever gets to that, David Thomson would be wise to beg Cherry to keep his money in his pocket, or at very least not give him any say in the operation of the team.
Don’t forget that as part-owner of the Mississauga IceDogs, Cherry distinguished himself as one of the most incompetent executives in the history of sports. In his four years with the IceDogs, Cherry essentially used the franchise as an employment agency for his family and friends and very nearly ran the organization into the ground. In his four years with the IceDogs, one of which he was the coach, the team went an embarrassing 27-222-25 for a .144 points percentage.
The season after the IceDogs were sold to former NHL goalie Nick Ricci in 2002, they won 23 games and instantly gained credibility and respectability around the Ontario League.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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