Coyotes staying in desert

Gary Bettman's handling of the Coyotes saga conjures memories of the CFL at some of its worst...

Gary Bettman's handling of the Coyotes saga conjures memories of the CFL at some of its worst moments.

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:25 PM ET

Watching the Phoenix Coyotes foibles reminds me of some of the worst gong shows the Canadian Football League has served up over the years.

It wasnít that long ago the owners of two CFL teams, the Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, stopped paying their bills in the same season, forcing the league to take over both.

It was bush-league action at its finest, reminiscent of the circus-like days of American expansion, when the commissioner of the day played now-you-see-íem, now-you-donít with franchises.

Incredibly, and to the amusement and enjoyment of many, the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman have ventured even further into the woods, finding a secluded place so wacky Tolkien could have written a trilogy about it.

Tuesday night, a group of hobbits known as Glendale city council penned the beginning of yet another sequel, as they voted 5-2 to cover up to $25 million in Coyotes losses for one more season.

This a mere week after forking over $25 million for the season passed.

As they prepared for the vote, guess which character in this fantasy popped its head up one more time?

None other than Jerry Reinsdorf, the Chicago sports mogul whose on-again, off-again pursuit of the franchise might be back on again.

Of course, covering this story has been a little like playing Whack-a-Mole at a rigged carnival. With half a paddle. In teams.

One lead emerges, and while everybody rushes to get a handle on it, another pops up somewhere else. By the end of the game, nobody has anything.

The Coyotes game presumably could have ended Tuesday night, but only with a no vote by Glendale.

The expected yes vote, while not coming close to sealing the deal with prospective owner Matt Hulsizer, would at least take the urgency out of the situation.

If conspiracy theorists are to be believed, it could also allow the league to temporarily shelve the Coyotes talks and deal immediately with Atlantaís ownership crisis.

The Thrashers owners described their situation as urgent three months ago.

Of course, compared to Phoenix, the Atlanta crisis is still wearing diapers and sucking a soother. Get to two years and we might begin to take you seriously.

Actually, there are reasons to believe Atlanta will be resolved much more quickly.

Most importantly, the NHL has not been forced to buy the Thrashers out of bankruptcy, as it did the Coyotes in order to keep a rogue owner who hadnít ingratiated himself into the club from circumventing league protocol and moving the team to Canada.

Buying the Coyotes cost the league $140 million. Operating them last season cost another $30 million. The NHLís share of this seasonís losses was around $12 million.

The league has no such investment to recoup in Georgia, nor does it have as much face to save.

Bettman has made it clear if anybodyís packing for Canada, heís going to hire the movers and choose the new address himself.

He also made it clear that an old friend on the frozen, flood plain of Manitoba should probably get first dibs. Fans in Winnipeg have been in a frenzy ever since.

Never mind first dibs. Thereís no other city with a ready and willing owner and arena.

So Bettman has two problems, and just one immediate solution.

A city government willing to slip its greasy hand deep into the taxpayer purse creates a potential second solution.

Then again, when youíre running a gong show, expect the unexpected.

The only name Iíd bet against seeing resurface is Jim Balsillie.

Anybody seen the Gliebermans lately?

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca

twitter@friesensunmedia


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