By Ryan Lambert
Trending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey, occasionally according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead?
Remember like three or four weeks ago when Greg Jamison finally put enough money together to go out and actually buy the Coyotes and re-sign Shane Doan and keep hockey in the desert and vindicate Gary Bettman and everyone would be happy forever?
Yeah, that was like three or four weeks ago.
Nothing has happened with it since, not really, because of course all this stuff moves at a glacial pace unless the league swoops in and basically sneaks a team out of the country overnight because it's a lost cause. Such was the case with Atlanta, and it should be the case with Arizona.
The latest bit of news in this seemingly never-ending saga is that the City of Glendale, broke and limitlessly daft, has asked Jamison to rework the deal they agreed to earlier in the summer to give the team a lease for Jobing.com Arena for the next 20 years. The deal as originally structured would have given Jamison's group, or whoever ends up buying the team, $324 million over that time. That's more than two Shane-Doan-To-Buffalo contracts a year!
And the problem seems to be a rather vicious cycle. While the city is allowed to approve the deal even if Jamison doesn't yet own the team, it's not comfortable doing so. Meanwhile, Jamison doesn't really want to buy the team without the deal being in place, and of course there's that whole business with the lockout. If the league is asking for $170 million to buy the team — and maybe Jamison and his buddies actually have that money on hand these days — he wants assurances that he'll be able to collect on that with a team that actually plays and generates revenues and things of this nature.
All of this has, of course, been complicated by referendums and potential work stoppages and all that, so who can blame anyone for wanting to stay out of it? But at the same time, how much more of this stupid garbage are we going to have to sit through before someone just says enough already?
Coyote fans exist. They care about this team. But as with Atlanta, there aren't enough to justify keeping them in a market that doesn't really want them all that badly. But look, I wrote about this same issue almost exactly a year ago: Jamison's name has been kicking around for more than 12 months now, and apart from him actually getting some cash together, very little indeed has been accomplished.
Shouldn't that, on top of all the other failed bids, be enough to convince everyone involved that really, this team and this city aren't worth the effort any more? You couldn't blame any party for wanting to walk away. The league has been dumping money into a hole in the desert like a pre-retirement Mike Ehrmantraut for four years. The City of Glendale has been pumping dollar after fruitless dollar into trying to make something work, and now that it almost might, they want to renegotiate. Jamison has been dangling from the line with a hook in his mouth for a year, and no matter how nice it must be to own a hockey team, no one can want to own this hockey team this badly.
Just move the team. It almost doesn't matter where at this point. I hear they're building an arena in Quebec City, and I know it's not ready yet, but the city's junior team plays in a rink that holds more than 15,000. That's more than the MTS Centre. Of course that's complicated by the fact that you might not have a buyer yet, and certainly moving the team to Canada would increase the price tag to the point where it's too rich for Jamison's blood.
But if this many people are willing to pony up hundreds of millions of dollars to keep a team that routinely loses money in Phoenix, there have to be more than a few willing to keep it in a tiny rink for a few years before moving into a brand new building, especially in a market so deliriously desirous of an NHL team that they're literally breaking their own laws to get it there.
No one involved in this doesn't know why the Coyotes are still in Glendale. The city sure isn't kicking and screaming to keep the team. The fans don't seem to care either; the team moved to Glendale in 2003, and have had two seasons with average attendance of more than 15,000 exactly once since the lockout ended (and that was in 2005-06, so maybe it is the fans' fault for welcoming the team back with open arms after all). Nope, it's because Gary Bettman wants a team in Glendale.
Losing another team north of the border would look bad for him personally, and thus it doesn't happen. We can all rest assured that everyone involved tried really hard to make this work, but it just didn't. This is past the point of being a farce.
Given how much he's getting puppeteered by ownership in the current CBA negotiations, how much longer can he justify these losses to the guys who cut his checks? If these latest CBA negotiations are all about profit certainty, rather than cost certainty, then one way to shore everything up in a big, big way — and stop losing millions of dollars a year — is to get the Coyotes the hell out of Arizona.
Am I actually turning optimistic about hockey being played on time?
I'm not naïve enough to think that we're anywhere near either the NHL or the Players' Association reaching any kind of accord in this CBA war but I'm starting to feel like they're at least trying to do it, which is encouraging.
Today, maybe by the time you read this, the PA will have submitted it's counter-proposal to the league's latest offer, which itself came down later this week. You'll recall that the initial, rather discourteous salvo came in late July, and the Fehr brothers took more than two weeks to respond with their own, rather saner but still unacceptable answer.
At least now, we're progressing at a much faster clip. It was another two weeks before the league answered, and at least this was an offer that could be viewed — if you squinted real hard and closed one eye and kind of let your eyes unfocus like a Magic Eye image — as a reasonable one. It was a non-starter as well, but hey, the NHLPA took only three days to turn around an offer this time.
That's improvement, and shows that maybe the league isn't intent on simply locking everyone out when training camps are set to open. Might they be trying to keep up appearances and still plotting to proceed as it seemed they would a month ago? Sure. But — and I don't know why I'm going glass-half-full here — everything I've read makes it seem like they're trying in earnest, and that's kind of encouraging.
My default answer whenever someone asks me, "Will there be a lockout?" is "At least until Thanksgiving," but now I'm at least less sure of that answer. And given where we were a week ago, I'll take it happily.
Pearls of Biz-dom
We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?
BizNasty on the worst thing ever: "Finally found something worse than the people who post food pics on Instagram and Twitter. The people who comment on them."
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