We’ll get to last night’s Superdome Super Bowl blackout fiasco in a bit, but first, the two major stadium-related bombshells that dropped this weekend. Numero uno:
It’s been fun to joke about the long, tortured Phoenix Coyotes sale saga, and how prospective owner Greg Jamison was clearly never going to be able to buy the team because it’s cursed — so cursed that he couldn’t even find $170 million for a team that comes with $200 million in subsidies. But, seriously, eventually the Coyotes would have to be sold, right?
No, not never ever ever:
Greg Jamison confirmed last night that he was going to miss the city of Glendale’s midnight deadline to buy the Phoenix Coyotes and receive a $308 million arena deal from the municipality.
Fox Sports Arizona first reported official confirmation from Jamison that he could not close the sale. That came after confidence in the bid coming to fruition faded Wednesday and Thursday.
Jamison’s official statement included a promise that “our journey to purchase the Coyotes will continue,” but it’s hard to see where the hell else it will take him, given that he was given nine months to find the cash to buy the team — which, and this can’t be repeated enough, was going to be getting a city subsidy worth more than the entire purchase price — and all he could come up with was to ask for more time.
He’s almost certainly not going to get additional help from the city of Glendale: Four of the seven city councilmembers who voted for last year’s deal to prop up the team with massive operating subsidies have since left office, and new mayor Jerry Weiers made a point of telling the Coyotes in his acceptance speech that “Glendale is not your cash register.” It’s always possible another bidder will emerge — another one always does, though half the time it seems to be just Jerry Reinsdorf kicking the tires yet again — but at the moment it looks like the current deal has blowed up real good.
That’s probably a good thing for Glendale, which will save itself $13 million a year in operating losses on the Coyotes, and might even be able to stop laying off so many city workers. For the dwindling number of Coyotes fans, though, it’s less good news, since this pretty much confirms that there’s no subsidy deal lucrative enough to make it affordable to keep the Coyotes in Arizona, short of turning over the keys to the Phoenix mint. (Wait, the Phoenix Mint doesn’t actually mint money? Scratch that one, too, then.) There’s already speculation that the Coyotes could become the new Quebec Nordiques; Seattle is another possibility, though that likely wouldn’t happen until Chris Hansen secured an NBA franchise first, which isn’t exactly moving swiftly right now. Markham — described excellently in the Seattle Times article linked above as “Toronto’s version of Bellevue” — would have to be considered a major longshot, given that the city’s arena deal still isn’t finalized, and that the NHL would have to either sell the Coyotes for next to nothing or agree to pay off the Maple Leafs for impinging on their territory, neither of which is likely to happen anytime soon.
If this is the ending for the Coyotes, it’s not a happy one for anyone: not for Winnipeg Jets fans who saw their team trucked south and had to wait 15 years for a new one; or for Phoenix area hockey fans who’ve been put through years of uncertainty and now face the likely loss of their team; or for Glendale taxpayers, who’ve been throwing good money after bad to support the team after building it an arena that will never pay off its costs; and above all not for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who has vowed never to give up on his plan to make hockey bloom in the Arizona desert, but may finally be forced to acknowledge that it was a failure from the start. I’d call it the biggest ownership disaster in NHL history, but that’s a pretty high bar to clear.