Archive for the ‘Arizona’ Category

Very long time, no post.

In the months since the last SportVotes post… pretty much nothing has happened in Glendale.  I mean, sure… they had a solid playoff run and there was a controversial public financing plan and a threatened public referendum and a new potential owner is trying to gather the funds to finally buy the Coyotes, but really?  It’s just been long and dragged out beyond belief.

It’s honestly more depressing than anything, really.  That being said, it is somewhat amusing to go back and read through some of my own posts that more or less prognosticated the impending doom of the Yotes, only for it to get dragged on for another year (soon to be a second year) while the almost entirely ignored Thrashers up and moved to Winnipeg.

Is this the beginning of a new start at SportVotes?  Maybe.

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For past articles on the Phoenix Coyotes, please go HERE.

First of all, it’s great to finally be back.  My computer problems are still persisting, but thankfully I now have a loaner laptop in my possession that will allow me to return to updating SportVotes.

In the two weeks since my last update on the subject, the situation in Arizona between the NHL, the Glendale City Council, and prospective Coyotes-owner Matthew Hulsizer on one side and the Goldwater Institute, a conservative taxpayers advocacy group, on the other, has continued to deteriorate.  The Glendale City Council had previously threatened to sue Goldwater and a number of other individuals should their attempts to block the sale of municipal bonds lead to the relocation of the Coyotes, but that threat has appeared to be mere posturing as weeks have since past with no actual move on this front.  Since then, the Goldwater Institute has apparently dug their heels on the matter and continued their efforts to warn potential bonds buyers about the questionable legality of the deal.

These moves have so seriously threatened the sale of the bonds, integral to allowing a new ownership group being able to buy the team and keep them in Arizona without absorbing exorbitant amounts of debt, that Glendale and Hulsizer have come hat in hand offering additional millions of dollars in guarantees for taxpayers to make the offer more appealing.  However, Goldwater is still convinced that the basic arrangement behind the proposed deal violates the state constitution, so they are not backing down.  NHL and Glendale officials have been trying their best to downplay the severity of Goldwater’s continued actions and threat to sue, but they are desperately worried.  Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL, is on the verge of facing an outright owner’s revolt against him for failing to sell the Coyotes that has proved to be a massive burden on the league’s coffers, and Glendale has even gotten vocal support from powerful U.S. Senator John McCain to speak on their behalf to Goldwater.

And they have good reason to be worried.  The NHL’s and Hulsizer’s patience is limited, and at a certain point one or both will simply back out rather than continue to lose face.  Should that happen, there can be no denying that the Coyotes would be forced to relocate, likely as early as next season, a fact that has absolutely delighted Winnipeggers due to the likelihood that they are the prohibitive favorites to land the team in the event of a new ownership group buying the team and moving them elsewhere.  And, to date, there is no indication that Glendale is at all willing to drop their objections to the deal.

As per usual, more news on this as it becomes available.  And you’d better believe that it will be coming relatively soon.  The status quo cannot be sustained in the desert for long.

Past articles on the Phoenix Coyotes and their “Drama in the Desert” can be found HERE.

Potentially as early as tomorrow, the city of Glendale will be filing suit against the Goldwater Institute for its repeated attempts to block the sale of municipal bonds meant to finance a deal that would keep the Phoenix Coyotes in Arizona.  Claiming that losing the franchise would result in a potential net loss of a half billion dollars in future revenue sources for the city, the Glendale City Council has instructed the city attorney to file suit against Goldwater Institute.  While it should come as no surprise that Glendale would bear its teeth at the conservative watchdog after their repeated questioning over the legality of the city’s attempts to push through the controversial bond issue, what should be viewed as a shocker is the potential scope of the lawsuit.  If Goldwater continues its opposition and subsequently forces the NHL to halt efforts to keep the team in Arizona, Glendale could be seeking damages in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  On top of that, Glendale will not only be suing  the Goldwater Institute for damages, but also individual members of its board of directors and even the wife of the owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks due to allegations that the baseball team has been supporting Goldwater so as to remove a major sports competitor from their market.

In my personal opinion, this is an absolute, last-ditch effort by Glendale to keep the franchise.  Grumblings from the NHL have been growing ever fiercer for months over their continued financial hardship in administering the deeply unprofitable franchise, and the other teams’ owners have all-but lost patience for continuing to fund the Coyotes while attempts to keep the team in Arizona under new ownership have floundered.  Additionally, prospective buyers have already popped up in Winnipeg that are willing to buy the franchise and pay off the debt in order to move the team and bring back the Jets.  While the NHL has obviously been interested in keeping the team in the Southern United States in the hopes of gaining a major American television contract, the prospect of the situation in Glendale dragging on has inexorably been pushing the league’s higher-ups for cutting ties in the desert and recouping their losses by selling off the franchise back to its original Manitoban roots even at the risk of losing a major media market in Arizona.

As a result of this, Glendale is firing directly at the bow of not only the Goldwater Institute, but at its directors and supporters in a single, vicious stroke.  They are going to try to scare Goldwater to withdraw their threat to block the bond issue with a lawsuit of their own and hit them in the pocketbook should Glendale lose the Coyotes.  And to my nose, this reeks of a desperation bully move.  Even if it is shown that Glendale did not break state law with the proposed massive bond issue, the prospect of facing a lawsuit could very likely delay the NHL’s sale of the franchise long enough that they simply give up on attempts to keep the team in Arizona and allow prospective owners from elsewhere to buy the team with the intention of immediately relocating as quickly as possible.

It will all come down to a blinking game.  If Glendale’s threat forces Goldwater down in the near-immediate future, the NHL’s sale of the franchise to an owner committed to keeping the team in Arizona will go through.  If Goldwater doesn’t back down and either keeps up their legal threats or even outright files a lawsuit against the city, then the NHL will blink and allow the team to be purchased by outside ownership groups, effectively killing the Coyotes.  This is going to be a battle that messily intertwines the sports world, the political world, and the business world before all is said and done.

3/9 UPDATE: Rather than making a new entry, I figured that I’d just add on some news here.

As of right now, despite Glendale’s initial intention to file suit as early as Monday, the city and the NHL are mostly stuck in a staring contest with the Goldwater Institute to see which one blinks first.  Both sides are threatening legal action and Commissioner Gary Bettman of the NHL is sounding exasperated over the continued speedbumps that have been thrown up at every step of the process in his attempts to sell the Coyotes.  Canadian media is getting positively giddy at the notion that the league’s patience could be on the verge of running out and that a return to Winnipeg could be coming sooner rather than later.  As soon as new information about the continued drama in the desert becomes  available, I will report on it here.  Until then, the Arizona standoff continues.

It took a while longer than I had anticipated, but we have more news regarding the continued troubles of the Phoenix Coyotes, arguably the most beleaguered franchise in major North American sports.  As I already covered previously, the Yotes have been experiencing setback after setback during their brief history in the Arizona desert.  Recently though, things appeared to finally be going in the right direction for the team, as they finally returned to the playoffs again last year, the franchise had reached an important refinancing deal that saw the city of Glendale assume a significant portion of the team’s debt, and the NHL was finally beginning to make a move on selling the team to an attractive ownership group headed up by Matthew Hulsizer, the head of a Chicago-based securities firm that has had a long interest in hockey.  The combination of Hulsizer’s deep pockets and Glendale’s willingness to not only adopt a $100 million bond issue to absorb most of the team’s debts, but also pay any potential buyer $197 million over six years to keep the team in Glendale, seemed to be a major turning point in keeping the Coyotes in Arizona.  For the first time, it would actually be financially possible for the team to turn a profit.

Could the Jets be coming back?

However, the Glendale bond issue proved to be immediately controversial amongst a significant segment of the local conservative population, as many area residents were opposed to using public funds to finance the team, especially as so many of them had been unwilling to even support the team at all during their years in the desert.  In response, the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, an organization that has long derided the use of any public monies to fund private sports teams, has threatened to file suit against the bond issue by claiming that it actually broke state law.  This threat has effectively paralyzed the NHL’s negotiations with Hulsizer to the point where it is now actively feared that the continued opposition to the bond issue could cause him to pull out of the negotiations in the same fashion that Jerry Reinsdorf (owner of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls) did the previous year.  The mayor of Glendale, Elaine Scruggs, recently held a press conference in which she called for the Goldwater Institute to stop their legal threats and that their continued opposition could cause the entire deal to fall apart (which is exactly what the Goldwater Institute wants).

Or the Nordiques?

Or how about the Scouts?

Should the Goldwater Institute stick to its guns and keep up their opposition to the bond issue, the Coyotes troubles could very well continue to pile up.  Additionally, as the league has assumed ownership of the team, they are the ones hemorrhaging money.  The other 29 team owners are none-too-pleased at their continued flushing of money down the toilet in funding an unwanted team (especially an unwanted team that appears likely to reach the playoffs again), and their patience with the NHL’s actions have to be running thin at this point.  Canadian sports fans are undoubtedly giddy at the whole prospect of the Coyotes potentially moving out of Arizona, as several major Canadian offers have been publicly put forward to try to land an NHL team in Winnipeg, Hamilton, Quebec City, and even a second team in Toronto.  Despite the fact that the Maple Leafs would very likely block any attempt to add as second Toronto-based team, and the Leafs and the Sabres would unite to block a Hamilton-based team, the offers from Winnipeg and Quebec City would have to be viewed as extremely attractive alternatives to the NHL, especially by owners seeking to rid themselves of their shared burden in the desert.  Other American cities have likewise been lobbying for new teams, most notably Kansas City, meaning that there is plenty of interest in moving the Coyotes elsewhere from from even within the United States.

More on this undoubtedly at a later date.

People have different interpretations as for exactly when spring begins.  Some hold to the traditional calendar date of the spring solstice.  Others don’t consider it spring until you can regularly go outside without a coat, regardless of whenever that may take place.  Still more believe that it’s not really Spring until trees begin to grow back their leaves and flowers begin to bud and bloom.  And some of the more party-oriented high school and collegiate students don’t consider the season to have officially begun until spring break rolls around.

But, for millions of baseball-loving Americans, the season really begins when spring training starts.  Even if you’re still experiencing a blizzard in the Midwest or New England, the fact that somewhere in this great country, people are playing outdoors on beautiful, sunny days in front of crowds of thousands is enough to feel that spring has finally arrived.  Every year, untold numbers of Americans from all walks of life, representing all political orientations and all possible ages descend upon Florida and Arizona to watch Major Leaguers shake off their winter rust and prepare for the arduous, 162-game marathon of a season that is so tantalizingly close.  Spring training offers all fans, from followers of dynastic titans to those that root for the habitual cellar dwellers, a chance to hope and pray for success the upcoming regular season and that maybe, just maybe, their team will win the pennant and potentially even the World Series this time around.

Cactus League Logo

Cactus League Logo

As a lifelong Cubs fan, the Cactus League has always held a special place in my heart.  While I can usually be content without football thanks to the NHL and college hoops, something always feels missing after the Super Bowl ends and there are no more major outdoor sporting events taking place.  Even though I have never had the chance to go to any spring training games in person, the thought of eventually being able to go coupled with the prospect of another season being so close has always shaken the winter doldrums from my conscious and prepared me for the remainder of the year.  The idea of being able to go watch 15 MLB teams in a single metropolitan area, all within about an hour’s drive of one another, is an enticing concept, and one that I eventually hope to be able to experience in person.

But spring training, and the Cactus League in particular, took on a much more serious note last year.  In 2010, Arizona passed what is arguably the strictest piece of anti-illegal immigration legislation in our nation’s history, prompting outcries and protest marches in cities and towns throughout the United States.  Immigrant- and minority-rights organizations decried the new law, claiming that it would lead to racial profiling, unequal rights based on the color of one’s skin, and potentially even creating a veritable apartheid system as overzealous police and citizen groups harass individuals of Hispanic and Latino descent regardless of residency status and subsequently make such people less trustworthy of civic institutions and less willing to report real problems to the appropriate authorities.  Pro-immigration reform groups dismissed such notions, claiming that attempts to paint the new law in such broad strokes was irresponsible and that it would merely allow Arizona to carry out responsibilities that the federal government was apparently unable, or unwilling, to handle.

Jared Dudley and Steve Nash wearing their Los Suns jerseys. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images, via The Epoch Times)

Arizona became quickly divided between these two camps, with businesses and civic organizations caught in the middle between potentially alienating an ever-growing segment of their local population versus angering the many conservatives in the state.  Perhaps the single most prominent protest of this new law came from the Phoenix Suns of the National Basketball Association, who, in a show of solidarity with their Hispanic and Latino fans, wore their “Los Suns” Hispanic heritage jerseys to protest the new law.  This action praised and condemned by many, both as an act of courage to show their opposition to a potentially unjust law and as an act of mere bravado and ignorance by those that supported it.  Ignoring the fact that the NBA’s Hispanic heritage jerseys have always struck me as odd (as it seems like it would make more sense to have the team names in Spanish for such uniforms, as in the Phoenix Soles, Chicago Toros, San Antonio Espuelas, and Minnesota Maderalobos instead of having Los Sun, Los Bulls, Los Spurs, and…. wait, did the Timberwolves even have Hispanic heritage jerseys?), there can be no denying that this was a particularly unusual and courageous act, regardless of one’s opinion on the legislation itself.  We rarely see any professional sports organization willing to take any side in such a controversial issue as immigration reform, and as a result of that action it elicited responses from personalities such as President Obama (who praised the act) and radio host Rush Limbaugh (who deplored it).

But while the Suns received attention for their jerseys, Major League Baseball was the organization that really attracted the lion’s share of attention from immigrant- and minority-rights groups.  Almost immediately after the law was signed into law, opponents rallied outside Wrigley Field in Chicago to protest against it.  Why, you may ask?  Because the Arizona Diamondbacks were in town.  Similar protests took place both inside and outside stadiums when the Diamondbacks were in San Diego, Houston, Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Washington D.C., and elsewhere.  Wherever the Diamondbacks went, protests seemed to follow.

But the protests weren’t merely against the individual team, but against the entirety of Major League Baseball.  Multiple groups have called on Bud Selig, the commissioner of the league, to relocate the scheduled 2011 MLB All-Star Game, scheduled to take place in the Diamondbacks’ own Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona.  Despite Selig’s refusal to move the game, calls intensified in the weeks following the law’s passage to expand to all fifteen teams with spring training facilities in Arizona.  These calls were especially levied against the Chicago Cubs, the crown jewel of the Cactus League and the entirety of spring training due to the vast numbers of fans that they draw to their games.  At the time, the Cubs had brand new ownership and were in negotiations with the state to fund the construction of a new facility for them, leaving many immigrant-rights activists to hope that they could hit Arizona where it really hurt and convince the Cubs to move their spring training facilities to the Grapefruit League in Florida.  Such an outcome would have undoubtedly shaken not only the local and state governments, but local businesses that thrive on Cubs business and the Cactus League itself by losing their main draw.  In the end however, the Cubs were convinced to stay in the Cactus League, but only after the locals bent over backwards and passed a slight tax increase on the other 14 teams in the Cactus League to fund the Cubs’ new facility, much to their displeasure (especially their interleague rival White Sox, who are also in the Cactus League).

Some even protested the AriZona Beverage Company, despite being based in New York. Swing and a miss!

Like most protests, anger and resentment over the law has died down considerably over the past several months, and pressure directed against baseball has likewise simmered as well, though we should undoubtedly anticipate an uptick in attention on the matter as spring training progresses and as we get nearer to the All-Star Game in July.  But this entire situation leaves us with a very real question to ask…. why was so much of the attention directed against Major League Baseball?  Granted, the Cactus League generates a significant source of income for Arizona during February and March, but so would boycotts against a variety of products from the state of Arizona.  Why would baseball receive so much attention when the NFL is by far the most popular league in the United States, and when the NHL has its own troubled Arizona-based team that could very well be pressured into moving out of the state given their own financial difficulties?

The answer to that question is multifaceted.  While the NFL has surpassed it as the most popular sport in the United States, baseball still retains the status as our national pastime to millions of Americans.    But the answer to that question goes even deeper.  Simply put, Major League Baseball is the single most international North American professional league.  While the NFL has started to attract a number of European and Australian players, it is still overwhelmingly an American game.  The NBA is most likely the single-most popular North American league in the world, with millions of fans worldwide and and ever increasing contingent of foreign-born players filling its ranks, but the league itself is still American-dominated.  The NHL is the only sport where Americans make up a minority of its players, and there are considerable numbers of European players in the league, but the fact remains that Canadians still make up the majority of its players, so it is still North-American dominated.  When you compare those leagues with Major League Baseball though, their international reach appear absolutely limited by comparison.  Even though American-born players are still a majority, it is the players from East Asia and Latin America that are truly spreading the popularity of the game like none other and making some of the most exciting innovations in the game.

This is Ozzie Guillen when he's calm, imagine when he's really angry. (The Urban Daily)

The Latin American presence in baseball is impossible to downplay.  Baseball has, by far, the largest active makeup of Latin American players of any major sport in North America, and as a result its connection to Arizona’s immigration law were particularly felt.  Huge swaths of Latin America remain one of the few locations in the world where baseball remains the world’s most popular sport, even ahead of soccer and basketball.  MLB teams have long relied on scouring the Caribbean, Central America, and South America for talent to add to their minor league teams and their major league rosters.  Fully a quarter of all current Major League Baseball players are foreign-born, of which the vast majority are from Latin America.  With half of all MLB teams having spring training facilities in Arizona, the potential impact of the law on these players was especially worrisome to the MLB Players Association.  Ozzie Guillen, the firebrand manager of the Chicago White Sox, wasted no time to express his displeasure of the new law and his concern over the impact that it could have on him, his family, and his players.  He has already announced that he will not attend the 2011 All-Star Game in protest of the law, and has claimed to spoken with a number of other Latino players and officials about their concerns with the law.  His concerns about the potential safety and well-being of Latin0 and Hispanic players, especially those that speak exclusively in Spanish or in heavily-broken English, were perhaps the most noticeably vocal and poignant criticisms that came from the world of professional sports outside the Phoenix Suns choice of jerseys.

While the protests have simmered down and the opposition to the new law seems to have mostly stalled, the protests to the new law and the focus that it brought on Major League Baseball remains a timely and important example of how the world of sports and politics really can intertwine.  Just a year ago, who could’ve possibly imagined that baseball would, at least for a brief moment, become one of the main battlegrounds in the realm of immigration reform?

Had I begun this blog a mere year ago, I undoubtedly would have already created dozens of individual posts about the continuing drama surrounding this team.  For those that don’t know the history of this NHL franchise, I’ll give a “brief” history below:

The Coyotes began their existence far away from the sun-baked deserts of Glendale in the frozen tundra of Winnipeg, Canada.  Founded in 1972 as the Winnipeg Jets of the World Hockey Association (WHA), the future-Coyotes entered the world of professional hockey at a crucial crossroads of the sport’s history.  The NHL had only just recently expanded for the first time in decades, literally doubling almost overnight from six franchises to twelve in 1967. While this expansion allowed the league to bargain for lucrative American television contracts and brought professional hockey to markets that were starving for a chance to host NHL teams, namely Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis-St. Paul, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area, it was also a highly controversial decision. By doubling in size immediately, rather than instigating gradual growths as Major League Baseball was slowly implementing, the overall talent pool of professional hockey was watered down significantly.  Questions over the legitimacy of the St. Louis franchise, seemingly only founded so as to allow the very powerful owner of the Chicago Blackhawks to sell off an arena that he owned in St. Louis (the St. Louis Arena, home of the Blues for the first quarter century of the team’s existence), were raised by many hockey observers.  And, most importantly, the NHL did not add any more teams in Canada, meaning that despite the fact that the vast majority of the players were Canadian and Canadians as a whole were much more rabid followers of hockey than Americans, the 1967-68 season would feature only two Canadian teams and ten American teams.  To potential fans across Canada, and especially in Vancouver (which many assumed was a shoe-in to receive an expansion franchise in 1967), this was a complete travesty.

As a result, over the span of the next decade, the NHL began to undertake a series of haphazard expansions that instigated a phase of intense growing pains that would haunt the league for years to come.  Over the next decade, the NHL would add franchises in Vancouver, Buffalo, Atlanta, a second team in New York, Kansas City, and Washington D.C.  With the floodgates open and the expansions continuing, a rising discontent grew in municipalities angered over the fact that they were not receiving franchises from the NHL.  In response, a second professional league, the Western Hockey Association (WHA) was formed to challenge the monopoly that the NHL held on professional hockey in North America, founding franchises across Canada and the United States.  While this league proved to be nowhere near as stable as the elder NHL, the war between these two leagues lead to rapidly escalating player salaries, increased cost overhead, and decreased profits and available talent. By 1979, both leagues were at their breaking point.  The WHA was nearing fiscal insolvency and several NHL franchises were either on the verge of outright collapse and/or strongly considering relocation to other cities in hopes of a brighter future.

After prolonged and intense negotiations, the WHA agreed to merge with the NHL, bringing the Winnipeg Jets and three other franchises into the NHL. While the now 21-team league stood as the sole major professional hockey league in North America, it had been incredibly bloodied by its feud with the WHA. The California Golden Seals had been forced to relocate to Cleveland before eventually merging with the Minnesota North Stars in 1978 in order to keep that team alive.  The Kansas City Scouts barely lasted two years before moving to Denver in 1976 to become the Colorado Rockies (the later MLB team would take their name from this hockey team) before being forced to relocate again to New Jersey to become the Devils in 1982.  The Atlanta Flames, the league’s first real attempt to expand into the American South, failed miserably and moved to Calgary in 1980.  And to make matters even worse, in a vindictive fashion the NHL stripped most of the talent from the four former-WHA franchises in order to placate the hardline owners of teams already in the NHL.

Despite this, the former teams of the WHA, the Jets, Quebec Nordiques, Hartford Whalers, and Edmonton Oilers, initially thrived in their new surroundings. The Oilers would go on to put together one of the most impressive dynasties in all of professional sports history, winning the Stanley Cup an astonishing five times in the span of seven years from 1984 to 1990.  The Nordiqes built a strong and passionate rivalry with their fellow French-speaking Canadian rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, and the Whalers built a loyal fanbase in Connecticut while competing strongly with more established rivals in nearby New York and Boston.  Finally, the Jets became the pride and joy of the city of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

As the 1990s approached though, the situation for these (and other) franchises worsened considerably.  The economy across North America grew weak as both Canada and the United States sunk into recession, and the Canadian dollar fell to all-time lows, drastically hurting teams across the league, especially the newer franchises in Quebec City, Hartford, and Winnipeg.  All three teams would seek greener pastures to the south in response to fiscal uncertainty.  The Whalers would abandon Connecticut for the Carolinas in 1997 to become the Hurricanes.  The Nordiques left for Denver to become the Avalanche in 1995, where they proceeded to win two Stanley Cups in their first six years in their new city.  And the Jets, in a move viewed as most peculiar of all, moved to the deserts of Arizona to become the Coyotes in 1996.

The story of this franchise could easily have ended there, but drama would continue to follow the Coyotes in their new environs.  Despite starting out strong, making the playoffs in five of their first six years in Arizona, the Coyotes continued to be marred by difficulties. The first arena they played in, the American West Arena, was completely inadequate for hockey purposes.  Almost immediately, the team attempted to gain local support in the construction of a new arena, only to face challenges at every step of the way.  Over the next several years, the Coyotes changed ownership twice and began to suffer on the ice despite bringing in all-time great hockey player Wayne Gretzky to coach the team, proving the old standard that great players don’t always make for great coaches.

But, after long legal wranglings and attempts to woo popular support for the construction of a new arena, the Coyotes were finally successful in building the Jobing.com Arena.  Despite its very odd name (which I personally believe to be the worst named arena in all of professional sports, and the second worst named facility after only the 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre, an outdoor concert facility in Tampa, Florida), the team finally got a venue that they could be proud of…. at a very high cost.  As a result of the years of demands and requests for public funding for the new arena from the team, the construction of the Jobing.com Arena left the Coyotes tens of millions of dollars in debt and had alienated a large portion of their fanbase.  During the first decade of the 21st Century, the team slid into deeper and deeper mediocrity and debt.  The team’s average attendance sunk to the near bottom of the league and they failed to reach the playoffs for six straight seasons.

This all came to a head in 2009, when the Coyotes filed for bankruptcy after they had lost over $50 million in 2008 alone, forcing the league to step in and take over ownership of the team.  In that same year, Forbes magazine released their annual valuations of every single NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL franchise.  Out of 122 teams, the Phoenix Coyotes were ranked dead last, 122nd place, as the lowest valued major sports franchise in North America.

Despite oddly making it into the playoffs that season, thanks in large part to the league’s willingness to spend money on the team’s payroll and to hire competent coaching in order to raise the potential selling price of the team to prospective buyers, the Coyotes continued to muddle around.  Despite attracting several potential high profile buyers, notably Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls, every major potential investor balked at the league’s demands that they promise to keep the team in Arizona.  What’s more, whenever the team’s record books were made available to potential investors, the sight of all the red ink seemed to have scare off everybody that the league was willing to sell the team to.  Only Jim Balsillie, an eccentric Canadian billionaire who has repeatedly attempted to purchase NHL teams with the expressed intention of moving them to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, remained willing to buy the franchise from the NHL, much to the NHL’s increasingly costly chagrin.

In 2010, the NHL seemed to finally score a major victory by getting the Glendale city council to agree to a $100 million bond issue on Jobing.com Arena, thereby seemingly eliminating a great deal of the team’s debt and opening the door to for a potential sale to people other than Balsillie.  While the NHL quickly trumpeted this achievement and began moving ahead with plans to sell the franchise to another group of prospective investors, it proved to be very controversial, as many Glendale residents were unwilling to financially support a professional sports team with public funding, especially one that many seemingly had no interest in supporting even as fans.

And all that brings up to the current situation, with the conservative Goldwater Institute seemingly on the verge of filing a lawsuit to block the bond issue, and subsequently any potential sale that the NHL is planning.  A lot is expected to happen regarding the Coyotes saga in the next week or two, so a lengthy background was needed before I could potentially go into any additional news on the franchise.  Drastically different outcomes could arise in the next several days, ranging from the NHL using the safeguard established by Glendale’s bond issue to finally sell the team to the Goldwater Institute blocking the bond issue and, by extension, preventing any potential sale of the team.  Depending on what happens, the Coyotes could just as easily be able to stay in the Arizona desert for years to come or be forced to pack up and leave the Grand Canyon State for another city, potentially even back to their original home of Winnipeg.

More news to come soon, in all likelihood. Hopefully there will be light at the end of the tunnel for this team sooner rather than latter and they they can find success wherever they end up.