Glendale vote tonight has impact on Atlanta and Winnipeg

Dave Naylor
5/10/2011 5:49:24 PM
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It all comes down to tonight.

That's an expression often used at this time of year to describe the anticipation leading up to a seventh and deciding game of a playoff series.

But right now it's about the vote tonight in Glendale, Arizona, where Mayor Elaine Scruggs and six councilors can set off a chain reaction that will not only decide the future of hockey in the desert, but immediately send reverberations to Atlanta and Winnipeg as well. 

After months of effort, the NHL, the City of Glendale and prospective buyer Matthew Hulsizer have been unable to close a transaction to secure the Coyotes at Jobing.com arena for the long term.

The plan to raise money for the sale by selling municipal bonds couldn't overcome opposition from the Goldwater Institute, the conservative watchdog that had threatened to sue over violation of the state's gift clause.

That, many figured, would have spelled the end for a franchise that racked up roughly $37 million in losses this season.

But instead of allowing the franchise to relocate to Winnipeg, the City of Glendale wants to offer the NHL $25 million to stick around another year. That $25 million is to subsidize anticipated losses for the 2011-12 season and comes immediately on the heels of the city recently writing a $25 million cheque towards losses for the 2010-11 season.

Glendale wants to buy another year, allowing it to either complete a sale with Hulsizer or find someone else to buy the team, although lack of time has hardly been the major stumbling block in this saga.

It's believed Mayor Scruggs will have enough votes to carry the decision forward.

Unless, that is, councilors get cold feet from the Goldwater Institute which will be making its presence felt at tonight's meeting.

Goldwater will have one of its attorneys address the council before it votes on Tuesday night, and the threat of another lawsuit is certainly possible.

Also paying close attention will be hockey fans in Winnipeg, who've been through more ups and downs these past few months than they'll ever have to endure if they actually have a team to follow.

A 'no' vote tonight would likely send the Coyotes back from whence they came all those years ago, with another name change surely awaiting them in the Manitoba capital.

A 'yes' vote would secure the Coyotes in Arizona for a year but wouldn't altogether dash Winnipeg's hopes. The Atlanta Thrashers are also for sale right now, and the current owners are anxious to sell before incurring another year of losses in Georgia.

Though time is running out, the Thrashers owners could sell the team to Winnipeg's True North Sports and Entertainment for relocation. But a deal would have to happen quickly in order for the team to be set-up in its new home for the 2011-12 season.

Not the kinds of dramatics hockey fans are used to at this time of year.

But just like in the playoffs, the end is always unpredictable.

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