The Disaster in the Desert. The Gaffe in Glendale. The Albatross in Arizona.
It is far too easy to make fun of every ridiculous moment that has transpired in Glendale these past three and a half years since former Phoenix Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes filed for bankruptcy in May 2009 and tried to sell the team overnight to Jim Balsillie without the NHL’s knowledge or approval. Since that time, a host of would-be owners have passed through town and summarily been exposed for the charlatans they were (Matthew Hulsizer, anyone?), grown disinterested (hello, Jerry Reinsdorf!) or been told to go climb a tree once it became apparent these folks wanted to buy the Coyotes so they could relocate them (Ice Edge Holdings), because we all know Gary Bettman & Co. wouldn’t want to be caught dead doing something sensible that would actually make the league healthier. This has been better than any soap opera or Jerry Springer episode because it just keeps getting worse and worse…and yet you can’t take your eyes off it.
Bettman and his cronies—to the surprise of no one who has followed the NHL for the past decade—refuse to acknowledge what a colossal disaster this entire situation in Glendale is. In an attempt to find a new owner, the NHL took control of the Coyotes in 2009 and have had exactly zero bona fide offers for ownership since. The City of Glendale has had the “privilege” of paying $25M a year to keep the Coyotes in town despite drowning in debt. “Fans” there are generally disinterested or only show up because of free tickets or the two-for-one kinds of deals that are usually limited to junior hockey leagues. The team has struggled with attendance since the team left downtown Phoenix for the albatross that is their situation in Glendale a decade ago, and the team arguably loses more money annually than any other team in the league.
But hey, the NHL believes it can work in Phoenix despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary, and God knows you should never cross Bettman and point out the obvious to him. God knows how much he hates that. He and the rest of the owners will gladly keep sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting “LA LA LA LA!” until they get their way, no matter how asinine it is.
The latest piece of evidence that the NHL doesn’t have a clue what they are doing (apart from their role in this latest lockout)? Being okay with Greg Jamison’s deal to buy the team, despite multiple reports suggesting he barely has the money to get this deal done—to say nothing of how he will try to make payroll in future seasons and deal with the inevitable financial losses which will continue to add up for the foreseeable future. And then of course there is his unwillingness to divulge who any of his investors are. That’s right, Jamison isn’t the one who is actually coming in to save the day, he’s just the guy on the white horse leading a pack of hooded riders like a scene from The Lord of the Rings. This is seriously the best the NHL can do? This would be far from the first time that the NHL has hedged their bets on owners and ownership groups who are shady at best, but when you’ve had egg on your face for over three years because of this disaster, why on earth would you do something that will only make you look even more foolish? It’s as if the NHL is being run by a bunch of clowns.
And the City of Glendale proved to be just as foolish as the NHL last night. They had a chance to do the right thing and reject Jamison’s deal—a move which could have led to the deal collapsing and thus precipitated what most reasonable NHL fans already know should happen, which is Phoenix relocating to another market—but instead they voted to approve the deal Jamison made despite the fact this move will sink the city into an even deeper black hole of debt from which they might never recover. Glendale is already having to cut money out of its general fund just to continue funding this disaster of a sports franchise, and now it looks as though this lame duck council is going to screw the city over so a precious few fans can keep their Coyotes, and all because they knew the incoming mayor wasn’t going to stand for it and likely would have wanted the Coyotes gone. Talk about having your priorities in the wrong place.
But hey, the Coyotes look like they might actually stay in Glendale for a while now (barring any renewed efforts on the part of the conservative watchdog group, The Goldwater Institute, to block the deal). Too bad the city will probably implode by the time Jamison’s deal expires. Make no mistake, the city of Glendale will regret this move for many years to come if it leads to Jamison’s deal going through. May God help you, citizens of Glendale, because your city’s leaders sure don’t want to.