By: Mike "BCMike" Fraser
Edited By: Mike "The Deuce" Bailey
Boat Drinks. That’s what Ed Beasley, city manager for Glendale Az. will be drinking after his planned retirement later this year. For those Jets fans and Quebecois who are still following the never ending story of hockey in the desert that was probably the first signal of what will eventually happen later this year. Ed announced he was planning his retirement back in September and since then Elaine Scruggs, the venerable mayor of Glendale, has also signalled she will not run for re-election. As we all know when a ship starts to sink, the first ones off are the rats.
Of course we really don’t need any signals or messages to know the fundamentals in Phoenix have been wrong for some time. The team has been on a death watch for more than three years and is probably one of the few non-government ventures that are allowed to live while losing thirty plus million a year. The only mystery left is when and where? When will the NHL and its partners in Glendale finally pull the plug on the Phoenix Coyotes experiment and where will they end up?
As I said previously the place to start is the City of Glendale (COG) because of course they’re the ones currently funding a large portion of this ongoing fiasco in the hopes that their dream of becoming a sports tourist destination will somehow be rekindled by a white knight riding in to buy the Phoenix Coyotes. As I’ll get to later this isn’t going to happen, and the people in charge know it. Ed Beasley, who undoubtedly is the godfather of this entire sham will no doubt make his departure just before the preverbal shoe drops and is hastily making preparations to do just that. Elaine Scruggs, the single minded politician who lead her flock down this merry path of doom is also preparing her departure. This of course means no white knight for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Now if you were to believe local Phoenix radio sports hacks, they would point a finger to the west and say our white night is riding in from San Jose. That White knight is Greg Jamieson, former CEO of the San Jose sharks and head of a group trying to purchase the Coyotes. Unfortunately for the Coyotes it appears that this emperor again has no clothes as was revealed in a recent report released by Court House News Service (http://courthousenews.com/2011/12/30/42657.htm). This report states that the Jamieson group tried float a bond to raise the required cash for the purchase, but in doing so not only failed to issue a bond but was also the victim of fraud from the financial services company offering to help raise the money. So not only does Mr. Jamieson not have the required $180 million plus to buy the struggling team, he’s actually fighting to get back monies lost in the venture.
So now that we know no one is coming to rescue of the Phoenix Coyotes, what happens next? As in all good mysteries one only needs to follow the money. Co-incidentally (no not really) the NHL in the last few days has “leaked” a top secret report from 2010 that concludes the NHL makes thirty three percent of its total revenue from the (then) six Canadian clubs, and that the average revenue per game for each of those clubs was significantly higher that most of their American cousins, especially the ones in the sun belt. This, of course my loyal readers, is the NHL setting the table PR wise for what is likely it’s only available option; a move back to Quebec City.
We could dive into all the numbers and all the possible US relocation candidates but really it all boils down to a few things that Quebec can bring to the table that no one else to date can. The first being the stable ownership and media tie-ins of Quebecor. Quebecor commands revenues in the billions and controls a lion’s share of the media outlets within Quebec. With the framework of a sale agreement waiting in the wings, Quebecor stands poised to make a fast transaction. The second is the prospect of a new modern facility to house the team. Although ground has not been broken, governments on several levels have committed to building a new rink and Quebecor has already brokered a deal for management and naming rights. Third of course is a ready-made fan base who never really abandoned the NHL but never really felt comfortable cheering for Montreal. So if you’re the NHL and looking for potential relocation candidates your choice seems to be: a) Another untested US city with sketchy ownership and maybe a building or b) A media conglomerate ownership group, a new building on the way and a rabid fan base. From a business stand point it seems like a no brainer and indeed the NHL does seem to have a new love affair with Canada.
In my mind there is no doubt that seven will soon be eight in Canada and the Quebec Nordiques fans will have their dreams fulfilled just as Winnipeggers did earlier this year. All the signs are there and I’m sure that hockey fans in Phoenix resigned themselves to their fate some time ago. So if you’re in Phoenix this season go grab yourself a $30.00 ticket on free beer night, and pick up a few soon to be collector’s items, it will probably be your last opportunity to do so.
There is however one small lingering question, if Quebec and Alberta can support two teams, why can’t southern Ontario? Surely hockey crazed Canada’s wealthiest region deserves more than just the Leafs. Don’t think the executive at the NHL isn’t asking itself that very question as more teams in the southern US sputter along on the brink of failure. It seems the NHL may soon have to trade the sun belt for the nickel belt.