Bettman still working to save Coyotes

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman talks during a news conference before the NHL game between the...

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman talks during a news conference before the NHL game between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Vancouver Canucks in Glendale, Arizona March 8, 2011. (REUTERS/Rick Scuteri)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:41 PM ET

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- One thing has become clear as crystal in the muddled saga of the Phoenix Coyotes.

By the time it's over, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will have looked under every desert rock and behind every cactus for a solution that doesn't include Winnipeg.

The NHL commissioner's latest plan: Find a creative way to have the city of Glendale sell bonds and contribute $100 million toward Matt Hulsizer's purchase of the team.

A creative way that won't appear to the Goldwater Institute as an illegal public subsidy.

"What the city of Glendale has been doing, with our help and with Matt Hulsizer, is trying to figure out another way to do this where it doesn't involve having to sell the bonds in a way that the Goldwater Institute can interfere," Bettman said in an interview Wednesday on the Fan 590 in Toronto. "Obviously, when the Goldwater Institute killed the deal, it was a huge setback. Nobody expected them to do that. We didn't think it was right that they did it, but the focus is still on making it work."

How alive could a deal that Goldwater already "killed" be?

Bettman insists he hasn't simply been waiting for the Coyotes to be eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs to put them out of their misery (at press time, the team faced elimination against Detroit in Game 4 Wednesday night).

"The speculation that we've been holding some announcement waiting for them to stop playing is absolutely wrong," Bettman said. "Do we have an infinite amount of time? Obviously, at the point we issue a schedule for next season, we're going to have to know where the team is playing."

But he doesn't have a deadline.

Given the rocky trail this thing has taken during the past two years, from bankruptcy court to the NHL's desperate purchase of the team to this 11th-hour moment, Bettman's dogged determination to keep his nose to it hasn't faltered.

Of course, he has a Plan B in his back pocket.

Bettman stopped short of confirming he has held talks with Winnipeg's Mark Chipman, a prospective owner, but we know that took place as far back as 2008, when Chipman made a presentation to the league's executive committee.

"I think it would be fair to say that I don't have the deal for the club to go anywhere else right now," Bettman said. "If I had to get to a deal at some point, my guess is I could probably arrange it."

A long-awaited meeting Thursday between Goldwater and Glendale mayor Elaine Scruggs may or may constitute progress. It's not known if the two sides will even discuss any new ideas.

At Goldwater's insistence, they will release a transcript of the proceedings, but no media will be present.

Arizona Senator John McCain, possibly the Coyotes' No. 1 "fan" these days, was instrumental in getting the two sides together.

Meanwhile, the most important Coyotes fan, Hulsizer, had yet to attend the series between the Coyotes and Red Wings, through three games.

Bettman brushed that off like a one-second-too-late hip check.

"Part of the problem is there has been a lot of media hysteria over this. He didn't want to be a distraction."

Nowhere is the hysteria greater than in Manitoba.

"I don't want people's expectations being deflated in one place and raised in another when it may be completely wrong in both places," Bettman said. "It isn't fair to the people of Winnipeg, and it isn't fair to the people of Arizona."

It's a little late for that.


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