You knew it was too good to last. The Coyotes have a season to remember only to get unceremoniously dumped in the playoffs and then the harsh reality of doing business with a fink like Gary Bettman set in.
Last summer when Jerry Moyes declared bankruptcy and tried to sneak the team off to Jim Balsillie and into southern Ontario, I warned the hell out of Coyotes fans about putting their faith in an unthrowable snake like Herr Bettman and while fans were grateful that someone stepped up to save the team last year. This summer, same bottom line with the story and a new cast of characters. If you’re not caught up on things, here’s a couple of links from what I’ve done at Pro Hockey Talk on this insane situation (May 6th, May 8th).
So what have we got here now? A real fine mess. Yes, the City of Glendale is going to do as much as they can to help out Ice Edge Holdings and keep the Coyotes in Arizona and while everyone has a vested interest in what they want to have happen (Arizona media wants the team to stay, some Canadian media is more interested in the NHL indeed making it seven) Bruce Arthur of the National Post seems to have some middle ground on everything, even if he is Canadian.
And that is where this league was going. In its final attempt to keep a team in a non-traditional market — or at least, in the display of something resembling an attempt –the NHL seems to have been reduced to proposing municipal blackmail.
“Municipal blackmail” reads like something out of a John Grisham novel and in this situation, it’s all too fitting. While things have yet to play out for Ice Edge and the City of Glendale, the city council meeting next week should be fascinating to see just how far a city will bend over to keep a team. By all accounts, it appears that Ice Edge Holdings wants reassurances from the city that they won’t be the ones on the hook for losing any money next season. The City of Glendale doesn’t want to hold their citizens over a barrel because of a sports franchise, I’m sure, but feel caught in the middle of keeping the community happy and trying to ensure the city doesn’t become a ghost town with an empty arena. And then look who is warding over the whole thing anyhow, Gary Bettman.
Once the NHL took control of the Coyotes after they were able to send both Moyes and Balsillie packing, the onus to get something done to actually help out Glendale shifted to Bettman and the league. Bettman said all the right things and promised to get things done because, damn it all, hockey was going to succeed in Arizona come hell or high water. They had a name for characters like Bettman in the old west: Snake oil salesman.
He got the fans in Glendale and Phoenix all amped up and hyper about the Coyotes and the team followed suit by winning a ton of games and making the playoffs for the first time in a long time. Perfect storm to win the support of the locals to ensure that you get pressure on the politicos to give into the demands of either Jerry Reinsdorf (who’s all but out of the running for the team), Ice Edge Holdings (the unanimously denied by the city council group now being asked back to the table) and Herr Bettman and his less-than-artful way of toying with the fans in Arizona.
You know who else comes to mind in this situation? Lyle Lanley. Don’t know the name, do you? Let me remind you who that is then.
Professional hockey? That’s more of a Winnipeg thing anyhow.