How does it feel to have come full circle, hockey fans?
Where 15 years ago we were on our hands and knees next to the dying carcass of an NHL team, vultures in business suits from south of the border circling overhead, weíre now the ones looking down in anticipation of the kill.
Crawling along in the Arizona desert, the Phoenix Coyotes, ironically enough. Or is it the Atlanta Thrashers? Itís hard to tell one emancipated franchise from another from way up here.
The latest news, courtesy of the Phoenix Business Journal, says the NHL has an agreement in principle to move the Coyotes back to our city if efforts to keep the team in Phoenix collapse.
The publication cites two sources ďwith knowledge of the Coyotes finances,Ē sparking the usual non-denial denials from True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Manitoba Moose, and the NHL.
A True North spokesman said there was no deal, which Iím sure, technically, is true, while NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said nothing is imminent, which could simply mean thereís no deal coming within the next half hour. Beyond that, all bets are off.
While we lick our lips in anticipation, though, Iíd like to point something out.
That wily Coyote, while still a tad mangy, has a little more bounce in its step these days. Apparently it came across a bubbling stream somewhere and took a deep drink.
For the first time in eight years, the desert dog is in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and not just by the skin of its teeth, either, but as one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
The atmosphere at the arena in Glendale has gone from morgue-like early in the season to raucous, as in sold right out, the last two games.
This resurgence comes at the worst possible time for anyone hoping for a quick kill.
A Stanley Cup contending team thatís creating some buzz is much more attractive to buyers than one thatís a perennial loser.
The NHL, which bought the team out of bankruptcy, and the city of Glendale suddenly have a little bargaining power as they try to hammer out a takeover bid with Ice Edge Holdings, a group that wants to keep the franchise right where it is.
Keep in mind, too, another group led by Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is in the mix.
So Winnipeg, at best, is Contingency Plan No. 2, in case Contingency Plan No. 1 fails, following the collapse of Plan A.
Could it be weíre also being used as a pawn?
Itís the oldest trick in the sports book: threaten to move, and show thereís a serious suitor in the wings, in order to get a better deal where you are. Iím sure the NHL doesnít mind one bit that billionaire David Thomsonís name has emerged as a winger for True North boss Mark Chipman.
That little tidbit should keep politicians in Glendale honest, as they decide whether or not to sweeten the lease deal for a new owner.
So youíve got incentive for the buyer ó taking control of a winning team ó and the landlord to make this thing work.
All the while, across the border the vultures circle, a decade and a half after the same franchise became a lame duck in Winnipeg.
Remember the names Burke and Gluckstern? The original Phoenix owners were to Winnipeggers what Thomson and Chipman must be to true Coyotes fans.
Are there enough true Coyotes fans to save the thingís skin?
Weíll find out soon enough.
All the team needs is a very big and very rich one right now.
If he writes a cheque, weíll have to turn our attention elsewhere.
Thereís bound to be a carcass turn up eventually.
Contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org or 632-2788.