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.