Matthew Hulsizer's deal to buy the Coyotes from the NHL is "moving forward and should be completed within the next couple of weeks, but the team is hoping the sale beats" the league's Feb. 28 trade deadline, according to sources cited by Scott Burnside of ESPN.com. The sale was "to have been completed by mid-February, but a delay in the sale of bonds by the City of Glendale (part of the new lease agreement with Hulsizer) has slowed the process." The bond sales are "expected to begin this week and would still, in theory, give the city time to complete" the deal with Hulsizer by the trade deadline. It is believed that Hulsizer "hopes to be ensconced as owner before the deadline so he can work with GM Don Maloney and his staff to begin charting a course for the future, and nothing is more crucial to the team's immediate future than making the playoffs." The Coyotes are 29th in NHL attendance, but "those numbers bloomed last season as the team charged toward an unlikely playoff berth." Burnside noted the "same dynamic is unfolding this season as the Coyotes announced their second sellout" Saturday against the Blackhawks (ESPN.com, 2/14).
NOT A FAN OF THE DEAL? THE PHOENIX BUSINESS JOURNAL noted on the "philosophical side of the Coyotes saga," D'Backs Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick and his wife, Randy, "may not like Glendale’s $197 million deal for Hulsizer to buy the team." Randy Kendrick, who "serves on the board of conservative groups the Goldwater Institute and Arizona Free Enterprise Club, says she’s not keen on individual subsidies and incentives for specific businesses." She said that her husband also would "prefer such issues be taken to voters in referendums," something that Glendale has not done with its Hulsizer deal. Still, Randy Kendrick insisted that she is "not lobbying for Goldwater attorneys to sue Glendale over the deal." Goldwater is "considering a lawsuit challenging the legality of Glendale’s Coyotes package," and Goldwater officials stress that "they have not talked to the Kendricks about a possible suit." The D'Backs did say that the NHL "approached Ken Kendrick about" investing in or buying the Coyotes, but he declined (BIZJOURNALS.com, 2/13).
MLS Commissioner Don Garber yesterday revealed that the "total value of Whitecaps sponsorships signed so far outpaces every other franchise in the league -- even New York and Los Angeles," according to Bruce Constantineau of the VANCOUVER SUN. Garber, who spoke at a Vancouver Board of Trade meeting, said the Whitecaps are the "leading sponsorship team" in all of MLS. Garber: "Even with Los Angeles and its stadium and David Beckham, the largest sponsorship base is here in Vancouver." The Whitecaps "signed a lucrative jersey sponsorship deal with Bell last summer and have since added deals with BMO, EA Sports and Labatt." Garber said that the Bell sponsorship is "one of the richest sports sponsorship deals in North America." He noted that the deal "doesn't involve television advertising or other media -- just a pure rights fee." He added that Bell "has certain digital and streaming rights for the Whitecaps and is negotiating with the league to obtain broader rights for the entire league." Garber also said that Vancouver soccer fans are "fortunate to have an owner like Greg Kerfoot, who may keep a low profile but there's no denying his passion for the sport" (VANCOUVER SUN, 2/15). In Vancouver, Marc Weber writes Garber "painted a picture Monday of an intensely involved Vancouver Whitecaps ownership group." Garber: "They could be our most-engaged ownership group. ... Very few days go by when we're not speaking to Greg or he's not speaking to Todd Durbin, our head of competition, or he's not calling other owners to ensure that we continue to get better" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 2/15).
BOSS TALK: MLS Timbers Owner Merritt Paulson discussed a wide range of issues regarding his team with SPORTSPRESS NORTHWEST's Stanley Holmes. When asked about positioning the Timbers brand in the Portland community, Paulson said, "Our marketing campaign highlighting the fans I feel as good about that as anything I've done in marketing. ... We're really highlighting the fans of Portland in a cool and edgy way." Paulson said of the "We Are Timbers" campaign, "I loved it from the get-go. Not using models, doing a casting call among our fans. You can't communicate civic pride more than that. I'm frankly surprised other teams haven't done it. It's all about the execution. It's generated a lot of buzz, which is what we wanted." Paulson also discussed the team's jerseys, saying, "I wanted a distinctive jersey that you knew right away was Portland. And I wanted a jersey that gave the right head nod to our past, and it wasn't rocket science that our main jersey would be forest green" (SPORTSPRESSNW.com, 2/14).
OFF TO THE RACES: SI.com's Steve Davis wrote "no one questions" how the Whitecaps and Timbers "will perform at the gate." Whitecaps officials "haven't released a season-ticket total but did say over the weekend that they are quickly approaching their 16,500 cap." It is the "same for the Timbers, who are approaching their cap of 12,000 season tickets at the renovated PGE Park." The "three-headed Pacific Northwest rivalry" between the Whitecaps, Timbers and Sounders "will bring something new to MLS: traveling fans in close proximity who are highly motivated to make the short trips" (SI.com, 2/14).
ESPN's "Outside The Lines" Sunday addressed the Mets' financial situation, and ESPN's Buster Olney said though Mets Owner Fred Wilpon is "going to get every benefit of the doubt from Major League Baseball," the big question within league circles is "how steep is this debt?" Olney: "How much money can the Mets lose before Fred Wilpon might actually be forced to sell the team?" Olney added Wilpon's plan to sell 20-25% of the team "while not giving up control to another owner is almost unworkable because, of course, if someone invested in the team and then Fred Wilpon put out a cash call to his investors as he dealt with his financial problems, who knows where that would end?" Horrow Sports Ventures CEO Rick Horrow noted Irving Picard, the trustee for victims in the Bernie Madoff-led Ponzi scheme, in his more than $300M lawsuit against the Wilpons, Saul Katz and Sterling Equities "may subpoena Major League Baseball records because that's where the flow of funds is." But Horrow noted some of the "positives" are that former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who is mediating between the Mets and Picard, "may mediate as quickly as he possibly can and there is a premium to get this resolved quickly for all those investors that want money back." Horrow: "At least the momentum is there to try to resolve this as fast as possible" ("OTL," ESPN, 2/13). PLAYING FROM BEHIND: ESPN.com's Lester Munson noted the "detail and the specificity of the allegations against the Wilpons and the Mets" in Picard's lawsuit are "impressive, reflecting deep analysis of the Wilpon empire." The Wilpons "insist that they are victims of Madoff's fraud, but there is no doubt that they have some explaining to do." The lawsuit is "only the opening salvo in what will be a long battle." Munson: "With an enormous load of debt on their myriad enterprises and the downturn in the real estate market, the Wilpons and the word 'insolvency' can now be used in the same sentence. Their ownership of the Mets is in jeopardy. ... Will the Wilpon empire, when it's all over, join the ranks of Enron and AIG and other massive business frauds?" (ESPN.com, 2/11).
RESCUE MISSION: On Long Island, David Lennon wrote the "most important man employed by the Mets these days" is GM Sandy Alderson, the "main architect of the franchise's current reboot -- and also its most vocal pitchman." Given the "amount of public scrutiny the Mets have been under lately, it feels like open season on the beaten-down franchise, and it is Alderson's job to change the negative perception that has dogged this team since 2006." Lennon: "For a brand that's worth more than $800 million, not including its SNY network, Alderson has been asked to be its jacket-and-tie savior" (NEWSDAY, 2/13).
In Columbus, Michael Arace profiled the Arch City Army, a group of Blue Jackets fans who sit in section 227 of Nationwide Arena. The Arch City Army is "70 days old and has 70 dues-paying members, 200 Facebook followers and a sponsor in R Bar proprietor Mike Darr." The Army "has made two appearances so far," and "both were for weekday games because their group is too large to sit in one section for weekend games." They "chant things like 'Wake up, lower bowl,' as well as the regular Jackets cheers" and MLS Crew-type songs. They also "ask those behind them if they want to move to the front of the section, then they stand all game" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 2/12).
LOOKING AHEAD: In Miami, Barry Jackson notes the Marlins have raised their payroll from $48M to $58M for this season, and team Owner Jeffrey Loria said that payroll for the '12 season, the first in the new ballpark, "won't be determined until next offseason." Loria: "The new ballpark will generate the need for some additional players. I've never disappointed anybody. When we needed players, we went out and got them." Loria, who gave multiyear extensions to Ps Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco in the past year, said the new ballpark "will give us further opportunity to do other things with other players, but they have to show all of us that they've earned it" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/15).
RENEWED INTEREST: Surprise (Ariz.) city officials said that Spring Training ticket sales for the Rangers are "booming, with fans from Dallas and throughout the state accounting for a large chunk of the more than 40 percent hike from last year." Surprise Acting City Manager Mark Coronado said that "plans call for the city to 'bring a Texas atmosphere to Surprise' by duplicating some promotions that have become a regular part of the game at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington." There are "tentative plans for post-game barbecues where fans and players and coaches would be able to mix." Coronado, "who met with team officials in Dallas in late January," said that "details of the revamped fan experience are still being worked out" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/12).