Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - For over three years, the Phoenix Coyotes
have been owned and operated by the National Hockey League. That arrangement
is not about to change anytime soon after the latest prospective buyer missed
a deadline to buy the troubled franchise.
Greg Jamison had until Thursday evening at midnight to complete the purchase,
but the deadline came and went with no sale to announce.
So, now it's back to the drawing board for a club that somehow has managed to
achieve a surprising level of success on the ice while battling bankruptcy and
other financial difficulties over the past few years.
Other suitors like Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf failed in
attempts to buy the Coyotes before Jamison, but this latest botched sale
stings the most.
Jamison, the former part owner and CEO of the San Jose Sharks, made assurances
time and time again that raising the money to purchase the Coyotes would not
be a problem. In late November, after agreeing to a 20-year, $308 million
lease agreement with the city of Glendale, Ariz., to take control of Jobing.com
Arena, Jamison said he would complete the sale within 30-60 days.
Many people took Jamison at his word and it seemed like this was a done deal
until doubt began to creep in this week. Rumors began floating that Jamison
didn't have the money and when Glendale mayor Jerry Weiers reported before the
deadline on Thursday that an attorney for Jamison called him Wednesday night
looking for an extension, the sale seemed as good as dead.
Sure enough, the deadline passed without any good news to announce and Jamison
has been labeled a fraud or worse by folks who had a lot riding on his ability
to successfully purchase this team.
There's also the case of longtime Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who tested free
agency last summer but ultimately chose to stay with Phoenix. Doan said all
along he wanted to remain a member of the only NHL franchise he's ever played
for, but another reason he decided to re-up with the Coyotes was due to
assurances from Jamison's camp that the club was going to stay in Glendale.
Now that the Jamison bid has imploded the future of the franchise in Arizona
is once again in jeopardy and one wouldn't expect Doan is happy with the turn
Jamison delivered a prepared statement upon failing to reach the deadline, and
in it he claimed "our journey to purchase the Coyotes will continue." Of
course, it's more than a little bit delusional for Jamison to think he'll ever
get a second chance at buying this club. After all, it wasn't just Doan he let
down, Jamison left an entire community of people in the lurch.
The city of Glendale is being crushed under the weight of debt largely created
by its ownership of Jobing.com Arena and it needs somebody to rescue them.
Jamison was supposed to be the man to deliver Glendale from its arena problem.
He was supposed to buy the nearly 10-year-old building from the city and
Glendale would pay him $15 million a year to operate it.
Now, with Jamison failing to meet the deadline to raise the funds for
Jobing.com Arena, the city is left in ownership of its white elephant.
There will be shortage of suitors to buy the Coyotes in Jamison's wake, but
selling this franchise will never be easy as long as the NHL insists the
prospective owner promises to keep the team in Glendale.
For some reason, the NHL believes it can turn the desert into a viable hockey
market despite 16-plus years of evidence to the contrary. Since relocating
from Winnipeg in 1996, the Coyotes have constantly struggled to make ends meet
and low attendance is one of the biggest factors creating the financial
Despite making the playoffs in each of the past three seasons and getting all
the way to the Western Conference finals last spring, the Coyotes are dead
last out of 30 NHL teams in attendance this season. On average, the Coyotes
are drawing 12,406 fans a night through five home dates, or more than 2,000
less a game than the 29th-ranked Columbus Blue Jackets, who are never a good
measuring stick for success.
With Jamison exposed as an unsuitable owner, the lingering question is how
will the NHL proceed with the sale of the Coyotes. If they open up the market
place to include ownership groups that want to move the franchise to somewhere
like Seattle or Quebec City than a deal could be made in a matter of months.
But, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman would have to renege on his promise to keep
the team in the Phoenix area for that to happen and that seems highly unlikely
at this stage.
In fact, Weiers said he was contacted by Bettman on Thursday morning and he
ensured Glendale's mayor that the NHL is still committed to keeping the team
in Glendale. Not surprising, considering the existence of a team in Phoenix is
tied directly to Bettman's legacy. As we saw during the lockout, the
commissioner is not the type of person who caters his decision-making to
outside demands and he'll do whatever he can to make hockey work in Glendale
despite the ominous signs that it never will.
The Jamison farce should have signaled the end of the NHL's Phoenix
experiment, but Bettman will make sure that it doesn't.
The Sports Network