Debunking the Phoenix-to-Portland Relocation Rumor

By brianpalmer
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There is a rumor that the Phoenix Coyotes might have a chance of relocating to a surprise location: Portland, Oregon. The story suggests that Calgary-based Bill Gallacher, who happens to be the owner of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, might be looking to buy controlling interest in the Coyotes with the intention of moving them to Portland to play in the NHL-ready Rose Garden. As an avid hockey fan who lives a couple hours south of Portland, let me say that I would love for this to happen, but sadly it will not.

The main reason this will not be happening–or at least not right now–is simply that mega billionaire Paul Allen is still in charge of things with regard to the Rose Garden. Allen has been burned by the NHL on no fewer than two occasions in the past, with the Pittsburgh Penguins having used the city as leverage for getting their own new arena several years back, in addition to the Coyotes themselves all but being moved to Portland a little over a decade ago before the rug was pulled out from underneath Allen and his bid. If Allen had any interest in bringing an NHL team to Portland after being spurned like this, the media would have pounced on this suggestion long before now.

But what of the whispers that Gallacher could have been one of the investors in Greg Jamison‘s recent “bid” to buy the Coyotes, but that Jamison sabotaged the deal because Gallacher was asking for too much control of the team? Could this be true? Could Jamison have nixed the deal because he knew Gallacher didn’t want to keep the team in Phoenix? If this Coyotes saga has taught us anything, it is simply that anything is possible no matter how unlikely it seems. That being said, Gallacher is firmly entrenched in Calgary and does not have any Portland roots or connections which would suggest he has any interest beyond simply wanting to own another team, and this is assuming he even wants to own another team in the first place. Reports linked him to the Dallas Stars back in 2010 when they were for sale, but nothing came of that in the end. Additionally, that would have been a deal to keep the team in Dallas rather than move them anywhere, so it should be presumed that a deal here would also be for the purpose of keeping the team where it is, not relocating it.

For now, all we do know is that Allen is in poor health, possibly even terminal health (rumors have been swirling about this for some months now but no one can seem to confirm one way or the other just how Allen is doing). He is still in control of Portland’s NBA team, the Portland Trail Blazers, but he has yet to express any interest in bringing the NHL to town. Since he still runs the show at the Rose Garden, no team will be moving into that arena anytime soon. Media reports have suggested that the likes of Merritt Paulson–owner of the MLS soccer franchise the Portland Timbers–might be willing to lead a group that could purchase and take control of the Trail Blazers and the Rose Garden, but even if this happened it is no guarantee that he would have any interest in allowing an NHL team to come to the Rose Garden either.

It’s akin to the situation that existed for many years in the Oakland Raiders organization before Al Davis recently passed on. The culture of that team, the way they evaluated talent, etc. was going to continue to go Al’s Way or No Way until he was six feet under, and now that he is no longer in charge things are starting to change in Oakland, even if it still looks messy. Similarly, until Paul Allen passes away–and even beyond that event occurring there are no guarantees of any kind–Portland will, sadly, not be getting an NHL team anytime soon.

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