SBD/Issue 167/Franchises

Bettman Allegedly Preferred Coyotes Move To Winnipeg

Daly Says NHL Considered Winnipeg
As Last Option For Coyotes
Coyotes lawyer Earl Scudder in an affidavit filed Friday claimed that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told Coyotes officials in early April that the league “would consider moving the team to Winnipeg but not Hamilton,” according to Paul Waldie of the GLOBE & MAIL. Scudder said he told Bettman on April 3 that there was interest “by a purchaser from Canada that wanted to move the team to Southern Ontario.” The affidavit claims that Bettman “replied that the league would not approve relocating the Coyotes to Hamilton because Copps Coliseum was over 30 years old.” However, Scudder alleged Bettman said “if the team did return to Canada, it would be to Winnipeg.” The filing also claimed that Bettman said that a new team in southern Ontario “would have to be an expansion club.” Waldie noted Scudder’s allegations "refute the NHL’s position that it was unaware" of RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie’s offer until after Coyotes Owner Jerry Moyes "put the team into Chapter 11 protection on May 5 and announced the proposed sale to Balsillie" (GLOBEANDMAIL.com, 5/16). NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that moving the team to Winnipeg was “considered only if there were no other options.” Daly: “In the event there turned out to be no options in Phoenix -- and only in that event -- we thought it was worth exploring what might be available in Winnipeg” (TORONTO STAR, 5/17).

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS...: The GLOBE & MAIL’s David Shoalts reported a new twist emerged Friday that might see the Coyotes “wind up in Las Vegas in a couple of years -- with the NHL’s approval.” A source familiar with Bulls and White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf’s letter of intent to buy the Coyotes from the NHL said that Reinsdorf's "autograph is the only thing" he would put toward the team, as “any cash will actually be provided” by producer Jerry Bruckheimer and MGM Studios Chair & CEO Harry Sloan. Daly said in an e-mail such an offer is “entirely fictitious,” "not accurate," “comical” and “totally untrue.” However, Shoalts noted if the Reinsdorf-led group purchases the club, “some sort of escape clause will be inserted” into the Jobing.com Arena lease, and if attendance and revenue “do not hit certain targets in two years, the team can move.” An exit fee “might be paid,” and the source said that the team could end up in Las Vegas with Bruckheimer “at the controls -- which is what many in the NHL would like to see anyway” (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/16). But the GLOBE & MAIL’s Jeff Blair writes, “Baseball people who know Reinsdorf say that regardless of his financial stake or ultimate intentions in a purported bid to buy” the Coyotes, he “has no stomach for a protracted public battle” over the team. The “deeper the matter sinks into a legal morass, the greater likelihood he extricates himself completely from the affair” (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/18).

LOST IN THE DESERT? In Phoenix, Paola Boivin wrote hockey in the city is “nothing but dead air right now.” The team held a “Save the Coyotes Rally” on Saturday and “attracted several hundred without a single player or team official in sight.” It is a “sad turn of events for a brilliant sport and raises important questions" about Coyotes Managing Partner and coach Wayne Gretzky’s accountability. Gretzky “always wanted to make it about the players, not him,” but if he “could have done more to encourage fans to come out and see those players, why not?” If the NHL “wins its court battle with Moyes, the Coyotes would be best served by Gretzky sticking to one role” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/17). In Arizona, Scott Bordow wrote the Coyotes are “on the verge of leaving, and over a span of several hours only a few hundred bother to show up at the rally? Doesn’t that make a fairly significant statement about the Coyotes’ relevance here in the Valley?” (EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE, 5/16). In Toronto, Kevin McGran noted, “Less than 1,000 had signed up for a Save-the-Coyotes Facebook site” as of Friday (TORONTO STAR, 5/16). Daly said that the team’s “problems can be directly tied to its lackluster performance.” But he said that the team is “poised to make a ‘competitive breakthrough.’” Daly: “I think this market would be good if the Coyotes would ever win” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/18).

ARENA DEBT MET: In Phoenix, Watters & Sanders reported Glendale records show the city "has met its arena debt as expected, although that could change if the Coyotes were to leave." That “could leave the city having to dip into taxpayer coffers to meet its obligation,” as the loss of the Coyotes “would result in a direct loss to the city of $2.4[M] a year in rent payments from the team and other fees” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/17).

FEELING THE STING: The GLOBE & MAIL’s Waldie notes the NHL also is “indirectly caught up in a little-known battle over the location” of the NLL Arizona Sting. The Coyotes and Sting are both owned by Coyotes Hockey LLC, which is majority held by Moyes. Court filings “show that Moyes has had a long-running dispute with the NLL over the Sting, which has not fielded a team for two seasons.” The fight “boiled over into a lawsuit filed in March by the Coyotes,” who allege that in May ’08 the NLL “improperly rejected the club’s application to suspend operations for the 2008-09 season.” The NHL has become “caught up in the saga because it claims it took control of Coyotes Hockey last Fall and began running day to day operations, which would presumably including managing the lawsuit against the NLL” (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/18).

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