The Phoenix Business Journal reported Monday evening that the longer the team remains in the playoffs, the more likely a deal can get done to keep the club in Glendale, Ariz. That’s because more games means more seats, hot dogs and overpriced beer purchased, which would lower the asking price for the financially strapped team. It would also give Glendale officials more time to sell the bonds necessary to allow Chicago investor Matthew Hulsizer to seize control and keep them in the desert.
Winnipeg and Quebec City -- two of the likeliest places for the Coyotes to land up if a deal can’t get done -- could become huge Los Angeles Kings fans. (That’s who Phoenix would face in the first round if the playoffs began this morning.) Facing the Kings would be fitting since all the drama is fit for a Hollywood script, one that includes bankruptcy, threats of lawsuits, league stewardship and rebuffed efforts by rich Canadians to take the team back to Canada
Maybe since this has gone on for nearly three years, it’d more fit for a miniseries. How’s “Way North and Sout” sound?
Of course, there’s little agreement on which NHL-jilted area would be best for the team. (This all remains in the “conjecture” category since the league hasn’t discussed publicly what happens if the Glendale deal falls through.) Coyotes forward Eric Belanger, for one, said he’d prefer Quebec City if the team were to move, comments that still reverberate in Manitoba.
“There are reasons why hockey wasn’t working in Winnipeg at the end . . . I don’t see how that would have changed,” Belanger told Sun Sports last week.
In the end, the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix before settling in a new arena in Glendale.
Winnipeg Sun columnist Ted Wyman responded to Belanger on Monday:
Well, Mr. Belanger, a lot has changed since those days and Winnipeg is more ready for an NHL franchise than any other North American city, including Quebec, at this point.
Winnipeg has all the ingredients in place for the return of an NHL team and has had for quite some time. It has addressed the biggest issues that forced the team to leave.
There’s a relatively new downtown arena, built to generate revenue, and there are deep-pocketed owners who want to own a team in Winnipeg.
All this again obscures the efforts of Phoenix coach Dave Tippett and his players, who about to secure a second consecutive season that ends in the playoffs. (The Coyotes can clinch as early as tonight by getting a point against the Los Angeles Kings.) The franchise hasn't gone to the playoffs in back-to-back seaosn in more than a decade.
Now to stay in Arizona, the Coyotes might have to do something they haven’t done since they arrived before the 1996-97 season: get out of the first round.
The Phoenix Business Journal, citing sources, reports how crucial that might be:
Those sources say once the Coyotes are eliminated from title contention, the NHL will have to start looking at its watch in terms of when it might pull the plug on the deal here. That then opens up the team to a sale to a lurking Canadian investment group that’s ready to buy the Coyotes and move them back to Winnipeg.
The NHL has worked hard to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix despite numerous roadblocks, and will not pull the plug on a deal here until after the Coyotes season ends.
The league could hold off on a Phoenix decision until the Stanley Cup finals are over — whether or not the underdog Coyotes are in the finals or not.
Speaking of a Hollywood ending, the Coyotes hoisting the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in their first trip to the final could be something that not even Roland Emmerich would put in one of his disaster flicks. That’s just too unbelievable. Right?
New York Rangers 5, Boston 3
San Jose 6, Los Angeles 1
-- A.J. Perez