SBD/Issue 96/Franchises

Bettman Plays Down Coyotes Concerns, Praises Owner Moyes

Bettman Feels Sun Belt Franchises
Can Succeed, Winning The Key
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman last night appeared via telephone on FS Arizona's broadcast of Coyotes-Red Wings and said most of the "tremendous amount of speculation and commentary about the state of the Coyotes ... has been terribly unfair to the Coyotes' organization, to the players and most importantly, the fans." Bettman: "Obviously, there are some issues that we're working on in terms of getting a new capital infusion for the club which will probably take the form of some new partners for (Coyotes Owner) Jerry Moyes or even a possible sale of the franchise, but these reports about the franchise's demise are just ridiculous." Bettman added Moyes is committed to both the team and the city of Glendale, where Arena is located. Bettman: "He's been a real good guy and he's somebody who believes that the Coyotes' future, as do I, is in Glendale." Bettman added he thinks "all of this blanket categorization of 'hockey doesn't work in the Sun Belt' is complete hogwash." Bettman: "We have a lot of great fans throughout the Sun Belt. … I think the Coyotes have a bright future on the ice and I think fans are going to respond even increasingly to that." Bettman also said in markets where attendance is down, it is "normally directly related to a team that's been struggling on the ice for a long period of time." Bettman: "As the Coyotes get increasingly competitive, which they are, the attendance will increase which is what you're seeing this season" (FS Arizona, 2/4). Meanwhile, NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly last night at the Conn Smythe Celebrities Dinner & Auction in Toronto expressed the opposite outlook on the Coyotes as Bettman.

KEEPING IT CLOSE TO THE VEST: The GLOBE & MAIL's Patricia Best reports the "word circulating among business people in Calgary" is that English Coca-Cola Football League Championship club Derby County co-Owner Brett Wilson "is trying to snag ownership" of the Coyotes. When asked about his interest in the Coyotes, Wilson would only refer to the city of Phoenix and said twice, "I've been there, I've golfed there." Best notes Wilson has "come right out and said he's interested in owning a piece" of the Predators, and he "has made no secret over the years of his desire to own a couple of NHL teams." Wilson in October said, "Would I be interested in buying into the Predators? In a heartbeat, yeah. The NHL knows I'm interested. I've supplied all the paperwork" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/5).

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