Wednesday’s game between Detroit and Phoenix will likely be the Coyotes’ last game in Glendale. It certainly won’t be announced as such but the efforts to keep the team in Arizona are coming to a futile end. The only viable ownership groups that exist out there are only interested in relocation which the NHL has opposed. Instead the NHL brings forward very reluctant ownership candidates that want to see the City of Glendale incur all the risks in operating a team in Arizona. Such is the case of Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer who worked out a deal where Glendale would hand over $100-million of taxpayers’ money so Hulsizer could buy the Coyotes from the NHL, and to commit a further $97-million for him to manage the taxpayers’ arena.
This sweetheart deal is opposed by the Goldwater Institute. As a result, the Goldwater Institute and their CEO Darcy Olsen have been vilified by some hockey fans for continuing roadblocks in the sale of the Coyotes to Hulsizer. The Goldwater Institute is a conservative public-policy advocacy group focused on educational reform and tax-revenue spending. Goldwater vowed to sue if the suburban city of Glendale went through with a municipal bond sale that would have provided $100-million to Hulsizer. The mere threat of litigation chilled the bond deal, left Glendale and NHL officials fuming.
However all the blame goes to reckless municipal politicians who sunk $180 million of taxpayers’ money into an arena that should never have been built. Never mind they that may have been hoodwinked. That is nonsense. Too often the allure of sporting franchises causes politicians to lose their sense of fiscal responsibility. To make matters worse, they now want to give Hulsizer money so he will buy the team and keep it locally. The made up rationale for giving him the money is that Glendale will get all the parking revenue and Hulsizer will manage the facility for the city. The Glendale taxpayers should be thankful that the Goldwater Institute exists.
The NHL has been culpable in all this. Either to protect the Phoenix market or Glendale’s investment in the arena, the NHL has been actively trying to coerce Glendale to cough up more money. The reason for this is that the NHL owners have no intention of losing even one dime on the Phoenix franchise. They paid previous owner Jerry Moyes $140 million to keep the team away from Jim Ballsillie even though the value of the franchise is about half that amount. Since then the team has lost about $30 million which they expect to be covered by the new owner (or Glendale if they are foolish enough to hand over the money).
So along comes the Goldwater Institute to stop that nonsense. At the end relocation is the only option if the other NHL owners who obviously want to hang onto their money. So sometime between now and the June draft the citizens of Winnipeg will be out on the streets celebrating the return of their beloved Winnipeg Jets. So you might be wondering why the NHL didn’t save themselves all this trouble by selling the team to Basillie? Well Balsillie had no interest in moving the team to Winnipeg. He was clear that he only wanted to move the team to Hamilton which is within the Maple Leaf territory. All this time Gary Bettman was taking hits from hockey fans here who believed he was anti-Canadian when all he was doing was protecting the richest franchise in the NHL. I might add at the expense of taxpayers in Glendale.
UPDATE: I heard Gary Bettman on TSN Radio today say that the league continues to work at keeping a team in Phoenix and there is no plan to move it to Phoenix. He also indicated when pressed that a decision would have to be made before the schedule is drawn up. Which means that he doesn't want relocation to be the focus of the media during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Look for a June announcement.