Bettman believes Coyotes still may stay in Phoenix

TSN.ca Staff
4/21/2011 9:28:20 AM
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There is only one certainty about the Phoenix Coyotes franchise that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman would confirm - there would be some type of resolution in due time.

"It's not days and it's not years. Obviously, we have to have this resolved before we release next year's schedule," said Bettman, who was a guest on Wednesday's James Cybulski and Company show on TSN 1050.

But as the franchise prepares for what might be its last ever game in the desert, the commissioner said no one knows, but was confident that they Coyotes could still be in Phoenix.

"It's ironic: I know there were a whole spree of stories on Day 1 of this series that we had a deal, and we were just holding the announcement until when they were done playing. If the Coyotes lose tonight, I assure you I have no announcement to make, we have no deal, other than our efforts are still focused on trying to make it work in Phoenix," he said.

"We had it done at one point, but the Goldwater Institute blew it up. We're seeing what we can do. We still have time. I'm not going to tell you when time runs out, but obviously, the more time that elapses, the closer we get to the end, but we're still hopeful we can make it work."

When asked if the league was prepared to operate as owner of the team next season if a new owner couldn't be found, Bettman said it would be unlikely, unless the city of Glendale would take care of the financial losses.

"That's not the plan. I know this gets misreported also: they talk about 'oh, the owners must be so upset because of the money we're losing'. People tend to forget the city of Glendale is paying this year's losses, not the NHL, not the clubs," Bettman said. "So ultimately, for that to happen, Glendale would have to be willing to do that again. But I think at some point, if this doesn't come together, everybody is going to conclude that everything possible was done and it didn't work. We're hoping not to get to that point. And I still think there's a significant chance that we won't get to that point."
The NHL believed they had a deal in place with prospective owner Matthew Hulsizer, until The Goldwater Institute announced it would file a legal challenge to the agreement between the City of Glendale and Hulsizer to subsidize the purchase of the Coyotes.

"The fact is we had a deal that was ready to go but because of the actions of the Goldwater Institute, an essential element of that deal - namely the sale of bonds – was put in jeopardy and the market in effect, collapsed. And what everybody has been working on is an attempt to see if there is some basis upon which that market could be resurrected or there is another way to finance this transaction from the city's standpoint," he said. "Mr. Hulsizer, who I spoke to recently, is still engaged. But we don't have a framework in place that would enable the transaction to close and conclude the way we had hoped, because Goldwater had made the bonds, for lack of a better word, unappealing to the marketplace, by their threat, but not their actual suing, but their threat to sue. If you're in a business of buying bonds as an investment, and that's your job, and you can buy any number of thousands of municipal bonds, why would you buy bonds that are under threat of litigation?"

Bettman said that the recent television contract the NHL signed with NBC Sports Group will not be affected if Phoenix - one of the largest US television markets - was erased from the equation.

"If that's the case, then why aren't you in Winnipeg already?" Cybulski asked.

"We do everything possible to protect our fans against moving franchises and disconnecting them with the franchises they root for," Bettman said.

"It's interesting talking about Winnipeg and people being impatient, because people in Winnipeg know it's not fun to lose your franchise. And that's part of the reason we do the things we do, for our fans everywhere, to not move franchises unless you absolutely have no choice," he added.

"It's been well chronicled; there are people interested in owning a franchise in Winnipeg. Obviously, if you're interested in owning a franchise in a particular market you think it will work. They have a building that they didn't when the Jets left. I don't want to raise expectations, because it's not fair to the fans. But if we have to move a franchise, there are places that have expressed interest that we would strongly consider and obviously, Winnipeg is on that list and probably very high on that list."

Gary Bettman in Phoenix (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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