Embarrassments Starting To Pile Up On Gary Bettman’s Plate

So far 2017 has been a mixed bag of goodies for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. There are some good things he can take credit for. The NHL Centennial celebrations are going well. Edmonton has opened a stunning new arena that Bettman has vowed to reward with an All Star Game and an NHL Draft. This fall, Detroit will open another one. And it looks like Ottawa, especially after its success in the current NHL playoffs will get its new downtown arena approved. And (only a partial success, the NHL wanted more expansion teams) the NHL will get its 31st team, Las Vegas competing this fall. Internationally, bringing back the World Cup was at least a partial success and the NHL has recently announced it will play games in Europe again.

But behind the scenes there are major problems starting to pile up that must be far from being stored and filed away in the back of Bettman’s mind. Some are long term and can be postponed for a while but like the Atlanta situation a few years ago, some are coming to a head and have to be resolved sooner or later. In no particular order, here are some of the worst.

1.    Quebec City

Gary Bettman made a tour of the cities that lost their NHL franchises in the 1990s, Quebec, Winnipeg, and Hartford, in 2010, and offered them reasonable terms for readmission to the NHL: A great fan base (No problem in all three cities), a proper NHL arena, and acceptable ownership (No mention of a $500 million entrance fee). Winnipeg was used to resolve the Atlanta mess. But now Quebec has tried to comply with Bettman’s terms and has built an arena at taxpayers’ expense that the NHL loves just as much as the Edmonton one. They expect to be paid off and Bettman was openly consorting with both the Quebec City mayor and the Quebec provincial premier while it was being built.

The problem is the potential owner, Pierre Karl Peladeau is an unacceptable owner to the NHL (I’ve written lots of articles on this blog explaining why), leaving Bettman the problem of finding an acceptable owner behind the scenes for Quebec City. So far there has been no announcement of any resolution to this problem and the longer it drags on, the more embarrassing for everyone it gets. Right now the Quebec situation has been shelved under the term “indefinite suspension”, but it has to be resolved with Quebec getting back into the NHL somehow as soon as possible.

2.    Arizona Coyotes

Bettman has fought tooth and nail to keep a team in Phoenix but it may be time to throw in the towel. Glendale has publicly declared that they do not want the Coyotes any more and has stated that an empty arena is preferable to having them play there. In response, Bettman stated that the Coyotes have no future in Glendale and need yet another new arena in the area to play in. A potential new arena in Tempe was cancelled. The Coyotes have turned to the Arizona State Legislature for assistance but it is doubtful that a financial bill will pass. There has been rumors that the Coyotes have been talking to Portland and Seattle (two much better hockey cities) about relocation. A more sensible solution would be to move the team to Quebec and then expand the NHL right away by two western cities. The NHL does not want to move any western team east because it would create more league conference imbalance but the solution I have suggested is probably the best way to resolve both the Quebec and Arizona problems.

3.    The Fate Of The New York Islanders

The Islanders play in the worst arena in the NHL with obstructed seats and bad ice, that they can’t sell out and need a new arena to survive. There is no way that the Islanders want to remain in the Barclay’s Center or return to a smaller seating Nassau Coliseum. Hartford, which is finally making an effort to get back to the NHL wants to turn the Islanders into a returned Whalers, but it would embarrassing for the NHL for a team with such a glorious history as the Islanders to disappear. The best hope for the Islanders would be constructing a new larger arena solely for them. A couple of places have been cited but nothing concrete has been committed to.

4.    South Korea

Bettman and the NHL Board recently closed the door on “unglamorous” Pyeongchang, South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics. But now has come unexpected, unbelievable news. From virtually out of nowhere, South Korea has improved its national hockey team to be good enough to be promoted to the top echelon of the World Championships. How good is this team? Next year South Korea will be competing against the very top “traditional big 7″ teams in a major international tournament for the very first time. Most likely they will just get their feet wet, lose every game, be demoted, and thanked for an historical break-through try. But if unexpectedly they do ANYTHING at that tournament that is going to be extremely embarrassing for Bettman and the NHL.

Pulling out of the Olympics in South Korea has really put Bettman and the NHL between a rock and a hard place now that South Korean hockey has improved. What if the unknown South Koreans are good enough to beat the any of the “big 7″ teams, especially Canada and the United States, are good enough after 45 years of stagnation to expand the “big 7″ at last into a “big 8″? Bettman who has brought back the World Cup after over a decade of dormancy and wants to expand and improve international hockey can hardly reject South Korea on one hand and then not be pleased at South Korea’s progress. South Korea has the potential to be a major new market not only for international hockey, but for the NHL itself. If the South Koreans are that good, Bettman will be forced to invite them to send a team to the 2020 World Cup. Pulling out of Pyeongchang so quickly has damaged the NHL’s entry into a major new hockey market.

5.    Improving International Hockey Quality

Sticking with international hockey problems for the moment, Bettman and the NHL have to finally start facing up to the problem of improving the quality of international hockey honestly. In fairness to Bettman, he is not to blame. This problem has been around long before the USSR challenged Canada in 1972. Bettman himself recognized this problem by creating hybrids “Team Europe” and “Team North America” for his revived World Cup instead of inviting any “B-Level” countries. In the 45 years since 1972, the “big 7″ have not grown into a “big 8″ or more. Specifically, improving international hockey quality should mean getting the large group of countries stuck at the “B-level” of play (There are about a dozen of them. I’ve listed them in other articles. Now South Korea has joined them.) finally over the hump so that they can compete equally with the “big 7″ teams and be able to win major international tournaments like the Olympics, the World Championships, and the World Cup.

Back in 1972, after the Canada-USSR match, there were boasts that hockey would “become the number 2 sport in the world behind soccer”. But hockey can hardly match soccer’s global reach and status if it is stuck at a narrow base of 7 countries. If Bettman wants his World Cup to start getting the status of soccer’s World Cup, the “big 7″ have to be expanded, hopefully at least to a “big 16″. Another practical reason to do this is that the NHL probably wants to expand to 40 teams within the next two decades. Each time there is expansion, the critics complain that the league gets “watered down”. But if the quality of play in the “B-level” countries were improved, there would be a huge new glut of talent to draw from. And improving the quality of play in these markets will probably increase attendance and interest in hockey bringing in more money for both international hockey and the NHL.

6.    Hamilton/Southern Ontario

Quebec is not the only Canadian problem for Bettman and the NHL. When he was hired, Bettman was probably told by the Canadian franchise owners of the NHL to preserve their monopoly in Canada. They have welcomed back Winnipeg and are willing to accept Quebec City with proper ownership. But for the new 10 franchises that the NHL wants to create in the next two decades, at least one of them HAS to be a new southern Ontario team, either in Hamilton, second Toronto, London, Kitchener, or Oshawa. Bettman must start convincing the Canadian NHL owners to accept a new southern Ontario franchise and to set an acceptable compensation package for Buffalo and Toronto like Los Angeles and New York have done in the past.

7.    Balancing The Conferences/Realignment

If the NHL reaches 32 teams, they can realign into an NFL structure; 2 Conferences with 4 Divisions that have 4 teams. This is also an ideal structure to expand the league to the next symmetrical numbers of 40 teams (5 teams to a division) and even 48 teams (6 teams to a division). But one of the problems is WHERE these teams are located. Right now Quebec wants back into the league and Hartford is making noises about returning too. This will tilt the conference imbalance still further. The recent NHL expansion was a failure. The NHL probably wanted an expansion of four teams; Quebec and three western teams, making the league a balanced 34 team league of two equal 17 team conferences, set in the NFL structure listed above and a commitment to becoming a 40 team league. Instead the NHL only got Las Vegas, Quebec is still out of the league and the NHL has not been able to realign. And no eastern team wants to be shifted west unless it was for a short, temporary period. This problem has to be resolved as soon as possible.

8.    Future NHL Expansion

If Bettman and the NHL can be placed between a rock and a hard place by South Korea, they are already in one because of NHL expansion. As noted above, the recent NHL expansion was a failure. It was probably the first time in the history of North American “big 4″ sports that there was no competition between rival cities for a new franchise and the NHL had to settle for what it could get. Of 16 potential bidders, all dropped out except for fanatical Las Vegas and Quebec City, probably because the $500 million expansion fee is considered too much for an NHL team by the business world. In contrast, there were 11 bids for an expansion team, including three from Houston alone back in 2000 when the expansion fee was $80 million.

How is the NHL going to expand if nobody wants to bid? And the league cannot solve its realignment/conference balance problems unless the league expands. One solution is to hold out, let time pass until the business world accepts a $500 million expansion fee. But how long will that be? The other loss of face solution is to refund some of the money to Bill Foley and then set a lower expansion fee that the business world will accept. Obviously the second solution is going to churn the stomachs of Bettman and the NHL governors but if they want to realign and expand quickly, it may be the only solution.

 

Las Vegas Admission Did Not Solve The NHL’s Expansion Problems

While everyone should be extending a warm welcome to the NHL’s newest franchise, the Las Vegas Golden Knights and wishing them well, let’s not forget that the admission of just Las Vegas represents a serious failure for the NHL. This is not the expansion that the NHL wanted. It is only the expansion the NHL could get.

Before the announcement of expansion last year, there was wild speculation about what would happen. There were newspaper stories and websites all over the Internet that even before expansion was formally announced, Las Vegas, Quebec City, second Toronto, and Seattle were “done deals”. Clearly the NHL expected to move beyond the symmetrical 32 team barrier to which the NFL is committed to and begin expanding to the next symmetrical number of 40 teams.

This implies that not only was expansion on the table, but probably realignment into an NFL structure of 2 conferences with 4 divisions with 4 then 5 teams in each division. Realignment into an NFL structure not only makes things easier for the fans to understand, it also makes it easy to expand the league to 40 teams (5 to a division) and then to 48 teams (6 to a division).

Before the official announcement of the terms of the expansion, there were all kinds of rumors and expectations. Cities were said to be awaiting NHL expansion for years since the last one in 2000 when Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, and Columbus were added. During that expansion there were 11 bids submitted including 3 from Houston (who somehow failed to land a team). It was expected to be the same this time.

In 2010, Commissioner Gary Bettman made a tour of the three cities who lost their franchises in the 1990s, Quebec, Winnipeg, and Hartford and offered them terms for readmission, the first sign that the NHL wanted to expand and was probably committed to realignment and becoming a 40 team league. Winnipeg came back by the franchise shift from Atlanta but Bettman was confident that both Quebec and Hartford would seriously consider getting readmitted to the NHL. There was also frustrated Hamilton, fresh from its Phoenix Coyotes misadventure or the second Toronto “done deal”. There was Las Vegas and the other “done deal” Seattle whom the NHL had serious discussions with. There were the failed bidders of 2000, Houston and Oklahoma City. Kansas City had built the Sprint Center in hopes of getting a team. Portland, another hockey hotbed and perhaps the equally good Milwaukee might be induced to submit a bid. And there was the possibility of any surprise bids from other cities. So the NHL announced expansion in rosy expectation.

But the excessive terms, particularly the $500 million expansion fee ruined the NHL’s plans. The terms attracted more public denunciations from investors than bidders. 16 potential applicants were said to be interested, but only fanatical Las Vegas and Quebec stayed to the end. Probably the NHL had wanted an expansion of 4 teams; Quebec and three western cities to made realignment possible, consummate their unofficial commitment to Quebec, and balance up the conferences.

To make matters worse, the Quebec bid was submitted by Pierre Karl Peladeau, who had made many enemies on the NHL Board. The NHL loved the Quebec fan base and the new arena, the Videotron, but could not abide Peladeau, who made public racist statements about one of the NHL Board members, supports a Quebec separatist political party, and is just too untrustworthy to be admitted as an NHL partner. The Quebec bid has been “suspended” indefinitely until Gary Bettman can find a suitable franchise owner.

So the NHL only got Las Vegas in the end, probably the worst expansion in “big 4″ North American sports league history. This may be the only expansion where there was no competition by rival cities for a sports franchise. The NHL is still unbalanced, nor can it realign into an NFL structure. In the end, the Las Vegas expansion is only a baby step.

Still worse is that the Arizona Coyotes are now potentially without a home in the immediate future. A sensible solution would be to shift the team to Quebec but that will only unbalance the league further. And now Hartford, so long dormant has announced plans to upgrade the XL Center and made an open attempt to lure the New York Islanders who have arena problems of their own. The NHL wants Hartford back but does it want to lose the Islanders and their glorious history? And if Hartford is granted an expansion franchise instead, that only makes the conferences more unbalanced.

But the biggest problem is that the business and investor world has said that an NHL franchise currently is not worth a $500 million expansion fee. So what do Gary Bettman and the NHL Board do now? Refund some of the expansion fee money back to Bill Foley and Las Vegas and then announce a new expansion with a smaller admission fee, more in tune with the market value of an NHL franchise, or do they keep their $500 million fee, announce more expansion and wait in vain for bids that may never come?

 

At the awards banquet, Bettman claimed that the NHL is no longer interested in expansion. Obviously they have to revise their strategy. Both options could result in an embarrassing loss of face for the NHL. Refund money back to Bill Foley and set a cheaper expansion fee means a climb down. And holding to a $500 million expansion fee resulted in only two bids by fanatics with no competition between rival cities. That’s humiliating enough. What if expansion were announced and NOBODY bid?

But a 31 team NHL is no more suitable than a 30 team league and this holds true for both the NBA and MLB as well. All three leagues have to get to at least 32 teams and realign into an NFL structure for future development. And in the NHL’s case there is pressure on them to bring back both Quebec and Hartford and balance the conferences. For added spice, there is also the ugly Arizona Coyote situation that could mean a franchise shift.

The admission of Las Vegas is not the end of the NHL expansion but only a transitory phase, further complicated by the situations in Quebec, New York, and Phoenix. The dust has definitely not settled. The admission of Las Vegas is only the end of a bad expansion episode. The real drama has yet to occur.

 

Arizona Coyotes/NFL? Bad Morals And Bad Business

It should be win-win and instead it is lose-lose. The surreal thing about the Arizona Coyotes trying to get a $225 million subsidy from the Arizona legislature is why there is even such a subsidy bill proposed and considered. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman pleading for a bill which I suspect if he was an Arizona taxpayer, he wouldn’t even give the time of day for.

Phoenix taxpayers, specifically Glendale are already deeply in debt on an NHL arena – built specifically for the Coyotes at taxpayer expense – 13 years ago. That’s right, the Arizona Coyotes current arena, costing several hundred million dollars is no good after only 13 years. Planned obsolescence on a massive scale. Now Bettman has officially told everybody that the Coyotes are finished in Glendale, that building that arena was a mistake.

And he is right. In fact NO arena or stadium should be built with taxpayer money in any city. If an expensive facility should be placed on the junk heap after only such a short time, it has the word “sucker” written all over it. And those who did the suckering, in this case the NHL, should not get another penny for anything. Why even such a subsidy bill is before the Arizona legislature is the real mystery. And all this for a team that has only had one good NHL season in its entire existence.

There are too many other such tales. Montreal building a $1 billion dollar stadium for the Olympics in 1976 which later nobody claimed they liked to watch either a football or baseball game in. The Toronto Argonauts pulling out of the SkyDome/Rogers Field which fans claim is inappropriate and too far away to watch a football game. The wonderful Barclay’s Center, the home of the New York Islanders that has obstructed seats for watching hockey. Ottawa claiming that its Kanata home is too far away to attract fans.

Meanwhile Phoenix does not have enough taxpayer dollars to fund children’s schools. Glad to know that they have their priorities right. Perhaps Bettman and the Coyotes owners and management should send their children to Phoenix for their education.

Leagues

Adding to this wonderful story is the NFL stripping three of its “traditional” cities of their teams in the past two years, two of them, not because of bad support or bad facilities, but because their markets are not as big as Los Angeles. The NFL could have given Los Angeles two expansion teams and Las Vegas one, but instead caused pain to loyal, devoted fans in its existing markets with the shrug of its soldiers and not a blink of the eye. And it’s comforting to know that Buffalo, Minnesota, and Jacksonville as well as the three victims were listed unofficially on many websites as potential teams to be moved too. If “something better” comes up, their days could be numbered as well.

So much for fan loyalty. So much for local, regional, and state perks granted to North American professional sports owners. So much for subsidized facilities built at taxpayer expense. So much for the support of local corporate sponsorships. So much for extensive, local media coverage. Meanwhile during the Obama administration, 45 million Americans (and uncounted Canadians) have been unofficially been labeled “poor”. And much of the funding for these sports palaces and perks comes from these “poor” people’s tax dollars.

It is hard to know who is crazier, government officials who approve these grants of money or the fans themselves who want these “bread and circuses/sports drugs” at all cost. In fact the only sane people are the owners themselves. They know they can get the money and they go for it.

At least in Phoenix it is being reported that the subsidy bill has little chance to be enacted. That there are too many pressing concerns besides professional sports franchises. That even politicians are getting tired of being suckered by rich sports franchise owners. That there is one 13 year old sports facility built that is already too many. That too much has already been given to a franchise with only one decent season in its history.

That will leave the NHL in a real quandary. They have publicly stated that there is no future in Glendale and now there are no other places to play anywhere else in Phoenix. And they can’t move the Coyotes east to hockey starved Quebec, Hamilton, or Hartford because that will make the league conferences even more unbalanced. Seattle whom they favor the most is out of the picture because it can’t resolve its arena problem. Las Vegas has already got its expansion team to the tune of $500 million. So will Houston, Portland, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, San Francisco, even Saskatoon come to the rescue? The NHL has already had to subsidize the Coyotes for several years. The only thing that is a pleasure in all this is for once the people who have already got too much are taking the hit and not the taxpayers.

(By the way, happy April Fools Day)

As The Coyotes Play… #2

Welcome back to your favorite NHL soaper, “As The Coyotes Play”. In our last episode, we left the Coyotes howling that their new love Tempe, Arizona, an eastern suburb of Phoenix slapped their faces just as hard as Glendale, a western suburb of Phoenix, did when they told them that the marriage was over. The Coyotes were left wondering where to go and what do. We saw NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman trying to reassure Las Vegas Golden Knights owner, Bill Foley and himself that what is happening will not happen to every dessert team, that there will be a happily ever after ending in Phoenix.

Now in our first segment we see the Coyotes get hope back in their eyes when they are told that the Arizona legislature is considering passing a bill to allow funding for a new downtown Phoenix arena. We see the parched tongues of the Coyotes start to drool that there may at last be water in the dessert heat. But the bill is still in the debating stage. We don’t know how much the legislature and the Phoenix and Arizona public love the Coyotes. It will show in future weeks. Time for our first commercial break.

When we return, we see NHL Commissioner Bettman tearfully pleading to the Arizona legislature to pass this bill. He speaks eloquently that he believes in an NHL Phoenix franchise and reiterates how the league is committed to Phoenix. Then he earnestly points out all the job-creations that will occur, all the revenue that will be raised if a new arena is constructed. He angrily repudiates that Glendale hussy, who never made a profit the whole time she shared the Coyotes bed and boldly states that he is finished with her for good.

Then one of the Coyotes Arizona owners, Andrew Barroway arises and repeats with more emphasis the Commissioner’s words. He stresses the advantages of job creation and revenue raising should a new arena in the Phoenix valley be built in a suitable location. He again denounces false, philandering Glendale for her inability to make any money in all the years of their marriage. Returning to her bed is out of the question forever. Time for another commercial break.

When we return we see the Arizona Coyotes General Manager, John Chayka sobbing bitterly because the Coyotes may leave Phoenix. He tells the touching story of NHL first overall draft choice Auston Matthews, now with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Local hero Matthews current brave knightly deeds could not have occurred if the NHL had not come to Phoenix. To leave the dessert would be a betrayal of Matthews and all the NHL has accomplished to build hockey in Arizona. The children in the Phoenix area that have taken up hockey as their favorite sport would suffer an irreparable loss.

But Bettman and Barroway reappear and solemnly warn the legislature that the Coyotes will consider “all the options” if something suitable cannot be worked out. But they never state what these other options are. Can that mean that there are other lovely eyes out there that want the love-starved Coyotes? One thing if that is true, it will be a western girl like Portland, Seattle, and Houston, not some faraway eastern lass like Hamilton, Quebec and Hartford.

So how will the Arizona legislature answer? How many more years will the Coyotes have to spend in the detested Glendale bed? Will the Coyotes yet live in the dessert heat or become a piece of nostalgia? We leave you in cliff hanging suspense until the next episode of “As The Coyotes Play…”

As The Coyotes Play…

Taking a break from serious issues like coach firings (Boston, Montreal,  and St. Louis), the potential upcoming trade deadline of March 1, whether the NHL plays in the Olympics, and resolving the Quebec City ownership issue, we now return back to our beloved NHL soaper, “As The Coyotes Play”.

In our last episode, our beloved team, currently second last in the whole NHL and saddled with its usual bad attendance, announced that they would be moving into the third smallest arena in the NHL, ahead of only Winnipeg and the New York Islanders to be built in Tempe, Arizona, another suburb of Phoenix. This “encouraging” news came after the announcement in the second-last episode, by the Coyotes current wife, Glendale, when the city council told the team that they would rather sleep in the empty bed of a vacant arena with no tenant and that the marriage was over at last.

“Fine!” said the Coyotes, “We’ve got a new love, Tempe, and we don’t need you either.” But now in our current episode, we find that Tempe doesn’t want a lame-duck lover either and figures that spending that kind of money for a new arena is not worth it. So now the Coyotes are washed up in both the east side and west side of Phoenix. As we move to our first commercial break we end the first segment with the Coyotes publicly denying that they were seen flirting with those western hookers, Portland and Seattle.

When we return to part two of our current episode, we see three eastern beauties, Hamilton, Quebec, and Hartford weeping and consoling each other. That black hearted villain, NHL, led by the cruel Gary Bettman has forbidden any western conference NHL team to move east because it will upset the conference imbalance still further. Hamilton which tried to have a passionate love affair with the Coyotes a few years ago and was willing to spend $50 million to upgrade its arena, is particularly desolate, torn apart like Juliet from Romeo. Hamilton has also been told by two of Bettman’s evil henchmen, Toronto and Buffalo, that any attempt to rekindle that love affair will mean settling with them first to the tune of a pretty penny.

Now we turn to Quebec City, seeking a legitimate owner, after the unsuitable Pierre Karl Peladeau of would-be wooer Quebecor, made unacceptable racist remarks about NHL Board member Geoff Molson, owner of the Montreal Canadiens and also tried to obstruct the business dealings of one of Molson’s closest friends. We also see Commissioner Bettman sneaking around in the dark shadows behind the scenes, desperately searching for that acceptable French Canadian, non-racist owner who has $500 million to spend. He is also secretly probably willing for Quebec to get an existing franchise that is either having a failing marriage with its fans, or existing in a run-down arena, by relocation instead of expansion, but he remains adamant: A new wife for Quebec City by relocation must be an eastern girl. So the obvious solution for unwanted Coyotes, and love-starved Quebec cannot occur.

Finally we read that Hartford, that widowed city that lost its husband, the Whalers like Quebec and Winnipeg in the 1990s is willing to spend $250 million to upgrade its arena. Alas, despite Hartford spending all this money on a facelift to regain its attractive looks and revive its supposedly ended marriage, we cannot expect a miraculous transformation of a western Coyote into an eastern Whale for the same harsh reasons given to Quebec. Time for another commercial break.

When we return, we approach the cliff-hanging climax of this current episode. We see that new lovely dessert daughter, Las Vegas about to come to her wedding day with the man of her dreams, the Golden Knights. We see owner Bill Foley, putting down a newspaper after reading about the unhappy, unwanted situation of the Golden Knights dessert cousin, the Coyotes. Is that a look of doubt and fear on his face about his daughter’s future marriage? We cut to a close-up of Commissioner Bettman, formerly full of joy after receiving a $500 million pre-nuptial gift. Is that a look of anxiety in his eyes? The fear of having another Arizona on his hands?

Meanwhile an Arizona senator wants to introduce a bill in the state legislature to help the Coyotes build a new $395 million arena. But where? Who wants this team?

But the episode ends on a happy note. Auston Matthews, the new savior of the Toronto Maple Leafs may be the only good legacy to come out the whole Arizona Coyotes soap opera when the series is permanently canceled.

That fate could happen soon if the Coyotes don’t find a new love somewhere within Phoenix. Keep watching in the future for another exciting episode of “As The Coyotes Play”.

Possible New Chapter In Arizona Coyotes Story

After a few years of quiet, there may be fresh series of episodes in the Arizona Coyotes soap opera (I mean story). If no one wants to see the team play (Arizona still has one of the poor attendance records in the NHL), at least it still gets the media’s attention by its survival status.

It is being reported on the Internet that the citizens of Glendale who fought to the death to keep a tenant in their arena and out of Hamilton, Ontario are now sick of paying fees to the NHL as part of that bargain and want someone to take the team off their hands and leave them with an empty arena in peace. It is rumored that the Coyotes will not be moved far, but to the other side of Phoenix, in Tempe, Arizona in yet another new arena to be built.

It hardly needs mentioning that this latest possible series of chapters in this regrettable epic is yet another major embarrassment to the NHL and its status in the United States. Aiming to prove to American television to win a lucrative contract, Gary Bettman and the NHL Board have let franchises move or be planted anywhere in the United States to show that hockey is “America’s game”. The old Winnipeg Jets were shifted to questionable desert Phoenix. Hartford left New England for warm, sunny, doubtful Carolina. Right now some of the lowest attendance figures in the NHL are in Phoenix, Arizona, Raleigh, Carolina, Miami, Florida, and an ill considered move by the New York Islanders to Brooklyn. This new report of a possible Coyote move, however close it may be, is not a good omen for the possible success of the NHL’s newest desert team, Las Vegas. Meanwhile cities like Quebec City and Hamilton who are dying for an NHL franchise and Portland which has deep roots in Canadian junior hockey and might have submitted a bid during the last NHL expansion until it saw that $500 million expansion fee are without teams.

It is doubtful that the Coyotes will move to Tempe, at least in the near future. There are a lot of multi-million dollar hurdles to be overcome before a single shovel begins construction of a new arena. Given the fact that it takes nearly 2-3 years to build an arena or stadium, the residents of Glendale are going to be stuck with the Coyotes for probably at least half a decade.

If they want the Coyotes to move immediately, their best chance is for an investor to move the team out of Arizona. But Hamilton and Quebec fans can forget about a move east because that would unbalance the NHL conferences even more. Canada’s best chance for the Coyotes is still Saskatoon if they can find an owner and build a suitable arena.`

More likely the Coyotes would be moved to a western American city. Right now Portland is the perfect choice. Milwaukee would be a top contender if they could find an owner. Other reasonable choices to where the NHL might have a chance of success are Kansas City, Houston, San Francisco (if they follow through with their rumored new arena), and Oklahoma City. Seattle, the best choice of all still cannot settle its arena problem.

Bettman and the NHL Board have noone to blame but themselves for this continuing mess. Jim Balsillie and Hamilton offered them a reasonable way out a few years ago, but the NHL fought vehemently against this obvious solution. Their reward has been a few years of money-losing quiet and now the possibility of more regrettable chapters in what seems to be a never-ending franchise struggle for survival.