Is there a comprehensive story written about the Phoenix Coyotes ownership saga?
August 21, 2009 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Is there a definitive write-up of the Phoenix Coyotes' recent ownership/bankruptcy saga?

I have followed this story with one eyeball, and it makes no sense. From my understanding, here's the facts:

(1) The 'yotes moved to Phoenix and (surprise!) after a few years of not-great managment and playing in an arena that is not really anywhere near Phoenix they started losing lots of money;
(2) The owner prewired a deal to sell the team to super-rich BlackBerry guy Jim Balsillie for $212 Million + $17 Million in other fees. Balsillie planned to move the team near Toronto, where hockey is super-popular and where most agree a second team could flourish;
(3) The owner of the Coyotes filed bankruptcy and tried to connsumate the sale and the NHL freaked out and intervened to block it;
(4) After fighting in court, eventually the NHL's board unanimously rejected BlackBerry guy's deal and instead voted to sell the team to White Sox/Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who will pay only $148 Million.

I can't understand why the NHL would fight like hell to keep a team that is losing lots of money in a market that has proven that it can't support it in favor of moving it to a market that would be more successful, or why it would accept a bid that is less than 2/3 the value of the other bid, or why the commissioner seems to really really really not like the BlackBerry guy.

The story is ripe for a long-form behind the scenes type of writeup in a magazine, but I can't find anything other than news reporting and blog posts. Has there been any good quality journalism on this subject?
posted by AgentRocket to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, the saga is not finished yet, so there isn't a definitive version. But I've been keeping up with it via The Hockey News.

Long story short, the NHL is caving to the pressure of the two surrounding teams, the Sabres and the Leafs, so that those franchises wouldn't lose market share to a team in Hamilton. I don't think it's clear that the team will stay in Phoenix, though.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:32 PM on August 21, 2009

I'd also like to see a comprehensive write-up of this story. For example, how did the NHL have standing to intervene in the bankruptcy proceeding?

I blame Gary Bettman. All that expansion in the 90s was just lunacy.
posted by orrnyereg at 2:36 PM on August 21, 2009

HFboards, business of hockey forum, Phoenix bankruptcy/ownership Part XIII: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Lots of heat, but also some light. And you read that correctly: Part Thirteen.

The NHL has an interest in maintaining a presence in key media markets across the United States. So while Phoenix, Columbus, and Nashville, for example, aren't major metropolises, they do allow the NHL to package the league as truly "National".

The RIM dude (Jim Balsillie) wants to move a club to Ontario (any club -- the Coyotes aren't his first slapshot at this), kinda sorta near Toronto. The folks who own the Maple Leafs are cool to the idea because such a move would dilute the market, and the rest of the league's owners are cool to the idea because it means they don't get a piece of whatever settlement Balsillie reaches with the Maple Leafs for infringing on their territory. The league and the owners would rather fill Ontario's need for another club with an expansion franchise; they'll all get a chunk of the expansion fee paid by the new owners.

The NHL is also pissed that the Coyotes' owner tried to find a buyer on his own, rather than with league approval. Were this to happen, a dangerous precedent will have been set; the league and the good old boys club it fronts will have lost control over who gets to join the club. MLB and the NFL have filed amicus briefs supporting the NHL's right to control membership in the ownership club, iirc.
posted by notyou at 2:40 PM on August 21, 2009

I'm not sure the sort of thing you're looking for really exists yet, or will until there's a little more resolution. Right now it's all just tension with no real resolution in sight. Plus, the big American media outlets that ought to be producing that sort of coverage tend to ignore hockey whenever possible.

I'll take a shot at answering your questions, though.

Some of the background to the Coyotes situation has to do with the sale of the Nashville Predators in 2007, during which Balsillie caused a huge ruckus by offering significantly more than anyone else, and then started selling tickets to Hamilton Predators games before anything had actually happened. The NHL suits considered this a huge offense to their authority and to the fans of Nashville, and a lot of the animosity here stems from the perception that Ballsillie is willing to hijack any potential team sale to get what he wants. In fairness to them, he probably is.

The other issue here is the perceived challenge to the NHL's long-term strategy of moving hockey out of Canada and the Northeast into populous Sun Belt cities, all the while racking up big expansion fees. It hasn't really worked so far, but Bettman and the owners who support him can still see the dollar signs in the desert. Their position is that a team in Hamilton would only appeal to people who are already hockey fans, when what they really want is to develop new fans. There are also some looming issues involving a high-revenue team in Hamilton screwing up the current revenue-sharing deal that benefits other owners and the rights of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres to maintain control of Southern Ontario.

It's a huge mess, and the only person who really has a final say in any of it is the bankruptcy court judge, something a lot of the reporting I've read about it has missed in favor of talking up the NHL's minor victories. The court is (or at least ought to be) far more concerned with the interests of Coyotes' creditors than with the NHL's long-term strategy and owners' politics. I also think the NHL's Sun Belt Strategy was and is wrong-headed and ill-conceived, but that's an issue for another day.
posted by Copronymus at 2:45 PM on August 21, 2009

Oh, and James Mirtle's blog is the best place I've found to keep up with the Coyotes saga. He's a reporter by trade, so it's mostly news without too much analysis or opinion, plus he's got an accountant in the comments who's been looking through the bankruptcy filings to draw some interesting conclusions.
posted by Copronymus at 2:47 PM on August 21, 2009

Wow; that's a lot of good stuff. Thanks, everybody.
posted by AgentRocket at 7:37 PM on August 21, 2009

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