'Important step' for Coyotes

Potential Coyotes owner Matthew Hulsizer is having difficulty acquiring the troubled team....

Potential Coyotes owner Matthew Hulsizer is having difficulty acquiring the troubled team. (REUTERS/Rick Scuteri)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:55 PM ET

WINNIPEG - NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says Glendale city council has taken an important step toward a permanent solution for hockey in Arizona.

Glendale bought more time to save its Coyotes Tuesday night by voting 5-2 to contribute another $25 million to the team next season.

“This is an important step toward a final resolution and a transition to the permanent ownership the Coyotes need and deserve,” Daly said in a statement this morning. “We set our sights now on finding a financing structure which will accelerate that transition. We are confident that, working with the City of Glendale, we will attain that objective.”

Whether or not that solution will involve Chicago investor Matt Hulsizer as the eventual Coyotes owner remains to be seen. There are rumours Chicago sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf is once again a possible suitor.

Daly, during a presentation to council before Tuesday’s vote, said the league was closer to a deal than ever before, whether or not that deal is with Hulsizer.

“I believe this franchise has a bright future,” Daly told politicians. “We’re asking to make that bright future in Glendale.”

Daly painted a rosy picture of the money-losing franchise, telling council the Coyotes per-game revenue this past season increased by a greater percentage than any other NHL club, and that season-ticket renewals for next year stood at better than 80%.

Coyotes GM Don Maloney also spoke, talking about the bright future of the team on the ice.

“We love it in Arizona. It is a great place to play hockey,” Maloney said. “We’re just at the starting point of a great run, here. The base of our team is quite young.

“It’s an exciting time for the hockey product. We have tremendous upside. And hockey works here. We just need a little more time to prove it.”

A total of 25 speakers addressed council, speaking passionately on both sides of the issue.

Among them was Nick Dranias of the public watchdog group the Goldwater Institute, who encouraged councillors to stand up to the NHL.

“They need you more than you need them,” Dranias said. “They have abandoned their ‘emergency’ talk about how they just have to get the deal done ... because they are so desperate to hold onto their master plan to keep hockey in the south and southwest.”

Goldwater’s threat of a lawsuit against the deal with Hulsizer has held it up, as a city bond issue to raise $100 million of Hulsizer’s $170-million purchase price has had difficulty finding investors.

The vote extends a two-year drama that began when former owner Jerry Moyes snuck the team into bankruptcy, from which the NHL purchased it for $140 million, covering its losses last season and sharing losses with Glendale this past season.

The clock for next season was ticking down to its final days. In order to draw up a schedule for next season, the NHL needed to determine where its franchises will be located.

As bad as this mess has been, the league has a team in a similarly bedraggled condition in Atlanta, where owners are tired of losing an estimated $20 million a year.

As far back as February, the Atlanta group characterized their situation as “urgent.” They’ve been patiently waiting behind Phoenix to get the NHL’s undivided attention.

Interestingly, they’ve also attracted the attention of Winnipegger Mark Chipman’s True North Sports, as far back as two years ago.

Many pundits believed the Thrashers would be the team to relocate, but the Phoenix collapse threw a wrench into the works.

The NHL may or may not have been hoping to save Phoenix in order to find a safe, Winnipeg landing for Atlanta.


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