Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.
In 2009 when Jerry Moyes put the Coyotes into bankruptcy NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was desperate to save the situation. His worst nightmare would have come true if Moyes had succeeded in selling the team to Jim Balsille and the team was moved to Canada.
Then, as now, someone or something, had to be thrown under the bus…because, of course, it’s never the League’s fault or a team’s fault when a team goes south. Back then, Jerry Moyes went under the bus but deservedly so. Mr. Bettman said at the time, “The team hasn’t been particularly well run.” This time, Mr. Bettman, has no problem throwing Glendale under the bus, undeservedly.
What a difference a few years can make. A 2009 Financial Post story said, “There is a brand-new building in Phoenix,” Bettman said of the Jobing.com Arena, the Coyotes’ home in Glendale, a Phoenix suburb. “There are people that are supportive of the franchise and want to keep it there.” Here is the link: http://www.financialpost.com/m/bettman+coyotes+situation+phoenix+fixable/1617384/story.html .
Bettman also said at the time, “What you don’t do is just abandon places to go somewhere else because somehow you think you have a divine right to a franchise in a particular place.” Doesn’t that beautifully sum up exactly what IceArizona has been doing? That certainly has been IceArizona’s attitude and why? Because LeBlanc, et.al., became angry and vengeful when Glendale pulled the plug on their annual $15 million dollar subsidy. It was not a “divine right.”
I’m not sure the general public knows where Glendale’s annual $15 million payment went. The ink was not even dry on the Glendale/IceArizona contract when IceArizona sent a letter to Glendale directing that the $15 million be sent directly to Fortress Investment Group, a major entity that loaned IceArizona money to buy the team. Did you know IceArizona’s owners put relatively little of their own cash up to buy the team? Between the 10 or so investors they managed to raise $45 million toward the purchase price of $170 million with the balance of the purchase funded by two loans–one from Fortress and one from the NHL.
It is finally beginning to dawn on everyone, including the media, where the real problems lie and it’s not the location of the team. It appears as if the management (owners) has literally been systematically raping the team of all of its talent. This is reflective of a string of poor management decisions occurring over the last several years creating a poor product on the ice. This is not to demean the players for there are some very talented men on Gila River ice. However, collectively, they don’t appear to “jell.”
Perhaps the last straw was the recent trade of Martin Hanzal. Martin Hanzal and Shane Doan were buddies…more than buddies, like brothers. They worked the same line on the ice for the team for years. They were a team and could read each other’s moves instinctually. Trading Hanzal had to have been a major shock and wake up call for Doan, indisputably the icon and unique symbol of this franchise. No wonder he is reported to have said that if the right offer were to be made, he would have to give it serious consideration. If and when Doan leaves or retires, his loss will cause many fans to abandon the team.
What about IceArizona’s marketing efforts? Do you remember when they first took over the franchise, there were major media buys and you couldn’t go through a day without seeing at least one Coyotes TV ad, and often more. Today, I bet most of us cannot remember the last time we saw a TV ad for the team. They’ve disappeared from the media market. It is simply a symbol of the lack of time, money and talent being employed to advertise the team and grow the fan base.
Bettman’s ultimatum sent shock waves throughout the Valley. He angered long-term, committed fans who are now voicing remarks like, “leave” or “bye-bye.” He has created enmity where there was none and the actions and comments of IceArizona have split the Valley apart. They have created a bitter pill that no one wants to swallow.
© Joyce Clark, 2017
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