Bettman bid to save Coyotes misguided

GARY LOEWEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:55 AM ET

In envisioning long-term NHL success in the Sun Belt, Gary Bettman may be wearing rose-coloured glasses.

Or maybe he just has a nasty case of pink eye.

But clearly the NHL commissioner's efforts to keep the Phoenix Coyotes in the desert are misguided.

Bettman long ago should have faced up to the lack of interest in non-traditional hockey markets such as Arizona and taken steps toward NHL contraction.

When it became clear that Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes wasn't interested in continuing to lose millions of dollars trying to make ice in the desert, the franchise ought to have been folded, the players put into a dispersal draft.

By acting promptly, Bettman could have avoided the embarrassing squabble with Jim Balsillie.

Instead of Duel in the Desert, we would have had Defunct in the Desert -- a move most hockey fans surely would have supported.

But Bettman opted to go into denial mode.

As recently as three months ago, the commish said there were four ownership groups interested in keeping the Coyotes in Arizona.

Today, there is not one investor in sight willing to step up to that challenge.

Bettman wants the NHL to buy the team for the short-term, and during the next year he would undertake the search for a permanent owner.

Sounds like the O.J. Simpson saga all over again.

The NHL needs to accept that hockey hasn't taken root in the deep south. Along with the Coyotes, the NHL could deep-six the bulk of the Southeast Division and few fans would weep.

The league would be stronger, and more appealing to true fans.

Meantime, the board of governors should grab the Sun Belt and use it to tan the commish's hide.

Shifting gears

About those four groups who supposedly were interested in buying the Coyotes and keeping them in Phoenix: They have opted to buy Pontiac dealerships instead.

Franchise anyone?

What's curious about the Coyotes bankruptcy sale is that there isn't a bidder other than Balsillie interested in buying the franchise and relocating it.

Owning an NHL team in southern Ontario was supposed to be priceless, wasn't it?

Those groups that had professed interest in owning a Toronto-area team have pulled quite a disappearing act.

T.O. on T.O.

Buffalo Bills receiver Terrell Owens was asked yesterday about his team playing at the Rogers Centre on Dec. 3.

"Looking forward to that, too," Owens said.

"Get ready Toronto, here we come."

All right, we wouldn't mind seeing some football in this town.

GARY.LOEWEN@SUNMEDIA.CA


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