SUN Hockey Pool

Glendale on the hook for cool $25M

Paul Friesen, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:44 PM ET

That was quite an invoice the NHL dropped in the City of Glendale’s mailbox this week, one that must have caused Mayor Elaine Scruggs to choke on her Cheerios.

The league sent Glendale a bill for $25 million, the share of Phoenix Coyotes losses the city agreed to cover this season as it bought more time to find a buyer who’d keep the team in Arizona.

But that was only part of the story.

The invoice included a month-by-month accounting of actual cash losses suffered by the team from September through the end of March: a jaw-dropping $36.6 million over seven months.

It’s one thing to hear how much red ink this franchise spills annually, another entirely to see it spelled out in cold, hard numbers like that.

The Coyotes lost anywhere from $2.9 million in a month (September) to $6.9 million (December).

And this was with the NHL operating the team on a shoestring budget, at or near the floor ($43.4 million) of the allowable salary range. If they’d spent to the cap ($59.4 million), losses could have been as high as $55 million.

No, it’s not a great advertisement for the sale of the team.

Now you know why Matt Hulsizer doesn’t want to use much of his own money to buy it.

Here’s what’s even more alarming: even if the Coyotes, who averaged 12,208 fans this season, drew another 5,000 fans per game, at an average $75 per game, they would have generated only another $15.4 million.

That still leaves a loss of $21 million on the season, which tells you how poor the revenue is, per seat, at Jobing.com Arena.

In my recent trips there, I couldn’t find a fan who paid more than $21 for a game.

And they want to start charging for parking?

$25-MILLION QUESTION: The bill for $25 million certainly got the attention of the Goldwater Institute.

But why didn’t the group sue Glendale way back when the city agreed to cover the losses?

“First, it was not clear that the money ever would be paid,” Clint Bolick, Goldwater’s litigation director, said in an e-mail to the Winnipeg Sun, Friday. “Second, the exact source of the funds has not been disclosed. Taxpayers only have standing to challenge expenditures if they are on the hook for replenishing them.”

And finally, Bolick said, “it makes sense for us to address all of the issues when a deal is finalized.”

In other words, that’ll probably be part of any lawsuit, if the deal with Hulsizer closes.

PROFESSORIAL BLOG: In case you hadn’t noticed, former Blue Bomber coach Mike Kelly has his own blog (coachmikekelly.wordpress.com), where he addresses aspects of the 2009 season.

So far, it’s mostly dull talk of leadership and vision, but there have been a couple of gems, including a shot at the media relations staff he had during that circus-like season.

Saying he was “forced to work with two interns,” the Professor said not having an experienced public relations director was the single biggest mistake management made.

And here I always thought hiring him was Lyle Bauer’s biggest faux pas.

In an earlier post, Kelly laments that his “energetic style and colorful language” didn’t go over so well, that he “didn’t communicate a shared vision to the fans and a level of mass panic ensued when success was not immediate.

“We had teamwork and collaboration within the building but outside of it became chaotic and we were lost in the ‘fog of war.’ My heart will forever be scarred.”

Teamwork within the building? Half his players and assistant coaches thought he was clueless.

The fact the Professor continues to blame others doesn’t surprise me.

Seeing him stoop so low as to blame the media relations staff does.


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