Jets' bash smashed

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:32 PM ET

Looks like we can cancel the caterer, send back the noisemakers and party hats and begin looking for a different theme for New Year’s Eve.

Jets colours are out.

Anyone for the double blue of the Atlanta Thrashers?

It was all set up so perfectly: the NHL and everybody’s favourite commissioner were finally going to say “uncle” and concede defeat where the Phoenix Coyotes were concerned.

A Dec. 31 deadline was set, after which the league was free to relocate the franchise for a second time, should a suitable buyer committed to the desert not emerge.

Snickers were heard from Transcona to Toronto. After all, any buyer willing to commit to more money-losing years in the Phoenix area would, himself, have to be committed.

Jim Balsillie, Jerry Reinsdorf and a group called Ice Edge Holdings had tried, and failed, to leverage a sweetheart deal that made dollars and sense. Arizona being baseball country, three strikes and you’re out, right?

The Coyotes were going to come back home.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the franchise’s repatriation.

Some guy named Matthew Hulsizer, a relatively young, former hockey-playing, well-to-do type from Chicago, stepped in and not only kicked the tires, but offered to buy them, along with the rest of this misfiring, cash-guzzling jalopy.

Monday, down in Palm Beach, Fla., Hulsizer met the executive committee of the NHL’s board of governors, aka, pro hockey’s old boys club, and politely asked to be allowed in (were you watching, Mr. Balsillie?).

“I’m a hockey fan, a hockey coach and a hockey player, and I would love to join the club,” is what Hulsizer said, as reported by NHL.com. “I don’t know that I ever thought I could afford to be an owner. I’m obviously flattered and honoured.”

We could think of a few other words, too. Most of them in the thesaurus, under ‘crazy.’

Hulsizer says he can see the Coyotes as a good investment, long-term. Short-term, maybe not so much.

The team’s averaging about 10,000 fans per game this season.

“They haven’t had a great product and I think we can turn it around,” Hulsizer said. “We are going to have to earn the fans back.”

He also talked about hiring a team president and keeping the head coach and GM, sounding very much like a man on the verge of a deal.

A Glendale council meeting next week should produce a new arena lease, with the sale expected to close by the end of the month.

“The executive committee was unanimous in their support of his application for ownership,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Sun Media.

The finalization of the arena lease should be Hulsizer’s last hurdle.

Cue the last breaths for this whole bring-back-the-Jets idea.

Relocating the Coyotes made so much sense.

NHL boss Gary Bettman himself said as much, going so far as to work out a Plan B arrangement with Mark Chipman of True North Sports and Entertainment.

True North began construction on a new press box, and, for the first time, enticed its season ticket holders with the prospect of NHL hockey. The whole buy-now-and-don’t-be-disappointed-later idea.

Instead, we’re disappointed sooner.

Oh, I suppose some other team could become the NHL’s next lame duck, and Winnipeg could become Plan B, once again.

The Thrashers are still a mess, at least off the ice, with a group of owners who make the Osbournes look functional.

Other teams are either having trouble drawing flies or have ownership issues.

But if you feel like this was our best shot, and you’re a tad bummed out by the whole thing, well, join the club.

As for New Year’s Eve, I guess there’s always the Moose.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.

Twitter@friesensunmedia


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