A wild Coyotes train ride

Fans make their feelings about the Goldwater Institute felt during Tuesday's Dallas-Phoenix game in...

Fans make their feelings about the Goldwater Institute felt during Tuesday's Dallas-Phoenix game in Glendale, Ariz. (ANDY DELISLE/For QMI Agency)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:48 PM ET

GLENDALE, ARIZ. — Only Gary Bettman and his closest allies know for sure when we’ll reach the deadline to save hockey in Phoenix.

Is it early April? Mid-April? May or June?

Or could the answer be “all of the above”?

Maybe it depends on when the Coyotes have played their final home game.

That’s always been my line of thinking. That, if the deal with Matt Hulsizer withers and dies here in the Arizona desert, we aren’t going to hear it until the need to keep the mirage alive is eliminated.

As long as there are tickets to sell, the NHL will do everything in its power to minimize team losses already reported to be as much as $40 million this season.

After all, if there’s no sale to Hulsizer, presumably the current legal owner (the league) will have to back fill the bucks.

So watch the Coyotes’ schedule closely. And if they make the playoffs, settle in for a longer haul.

At least, that was my theory.

“Not necessarily,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly told me, Wednesday. “If we feel we have hit a brick wall, we will announce that.”

Judging by the deafening silence over the last several days, this train hasn’t hit the wall, yet.

In fact, reports late Wednesday indicate the thing is still on the tracks, chugging through the most dangerous part of the desert, where the people threatening to stop it aren’t outlaws, but lawyers, brandishing lawsuits instead of pistols.

The Goldwater Institute’s holdup is in progress, there’s no doubt about that.

But while the taxpayer watchdog exchanges gunfire at the front of the iron horse, it turns out some enterprising types have been unloading bonds out the back of the caboose.

Around $50 million in bonds have been sold, close to half of what the City of Glendale needs to raise to hold up its end of the bargain, says a report by Mike Sunnucks in the Phoenix Business Journal.

Sunnucks has been riding this story for a while, and he’s hit as many targets as he’s missed, which on this lurching locomotive is saying something.

What isn’t clear is when that $50 million total was reached, and whether or not there’s been any movement recently.

Have the bonds been stalled at $50 million for weeks, with somebody only choosing to leak that news now? Or are investors slowly shedding their fear of Goldwater’s unmasked marauders, willing once again to do what they do: measure investment risk, and go for the reward.

Daly’s response to a request for an update doesn’t exactly satisfy the curious mind.

“As long as we are continuing to work, it suggests that we continue to believe it’s possible we will be able to get something done,” the deputy commish said in an email.

It’s funny how that innocuous statement — with pliable words like “suggests,” “continue to believe” and “possible” — was interpreted by the small but vocal Coyotes faithful in Twitterdom, who suggested the deal was well on its way to completion.

My take?

Don’t let it get your hopes up.

And I’m talking to both the return-of-the-Jets crowd in Winnipeg and the save-the-Coyotes faithful here in Phoenix.

Anyone who thinks they know where this thing’s heading hasn’t been down the track.

This train could still screech to a soft landing, amid the cheers of Arizonians, or it could hit the bricks, with Winnipeggers more than willing to pick up the pieces.

Either way, you’ll know when you hear it.

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


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