December 20, 2012
In the midst of the holiday season the Coyotes are at the end of another year of NHL ownership. The ice is down but the rink remains empty most nights because of the NHL lockout. Rest assured the first day back at home we’ll all be there to see the Pacific Division Championship banner raised to the rafters of Jobing.com arena. We’ll sing the national anthem with Patrick Lauder and welcome our team back to our ice in the hands of our new owner. It will be loud, it will be rowdy. It’s trite to say “I can’t wait”, after all we HAVE to wait, but that doesn’t mean we can be like the little “I’m too excited to sleep” kid in the Disney commercials. We’ve been reserved for years now, afraid to get too emotionally invested in “this thing actually happening”.
Can we begin to let our guards down a little now and start looking at the future of our hockey team in our town without the fear of getting slapped down yet one more time?
With minor reservations (disclaimer to protect my Nostradamus street cred) I’d say yes, go ahead and mentally let ‘er rip.
Today it seems certain that the Coyotes fiasco will be resolved in a fashion that will benefit ALL the parties involved whether they like it or not. It’s ironically perfect that both the City of Glendale and the NHL will likely be in a state of temporarily complete disarray when the Coyotes situation is finally resolved. It might also be ironically perfect that a huge step in consummating the process, the City of Glendale “signing the documents” might even happen on the exact day the Mayans predicted the end of the world. That schedule MIGHT even leave room for optimism for “everything being done” by January 1.
Hopefully I am more correct in my hopeful prognostication than the Mayans.
The Arena, The “Deal”
The future of the arena lease deal between Hockey Partners is very nearly solidified permanently. The R12-02 referendum attempt is almost certainly doomed, the visible effort being applied by the sponsors of that referendum would have to ramp up significantly to have even a remote chance of success. Before the “Back To Sanity” (BTS) people were warned of the fatal errors in their preparatory paperwork, they weren’t even bothering to canvass the PACKED “Glendale Glitters” or Tanger Outlets.
Once the 30 day clock runs out on the BTS folks on December 27, they leave veiled threat of further lawsuits in the air. The clues from BTS about the basis of the suit they would bring against the City of Glendale or Hockey Partners leaves little doubt that it would be baseless and easily dismissed.
The other obvious threat that has been hanging around since the “Hulsizer days”, Goldwater Institute (GWI) and their “gift clause” gambit, has no teeth. Since GWI tipped their hand years ago, the City and Hockey Partners have had ample opportunity to craft their agreement carefully enough to avoid any conflict with the “gift clause”. Considering also the Kendrick connection with GWI and the current attempt by the Diamondbacks to circumvent their agreement with Maricopa County in order to sell pricier tickets, GWI will likely not be interested in bellying up to the bar (legal joke, get it?) of suing Glendale AGAIN.
The City of Glendale will continue to have challenges with their budget into the near future. Yet, despite consistently pessimistic press and a credit downgrade or two, Glendale JUST managed to refinance a good portion of their debt for about a three percent reduction in their interest rate by selling bonds. All of the bonds were sold in less than four hours, according to CM Knaack and Acting City Manager Skeete. So, the bond market seems perfectly comfortable with the future of the city.
A clearheaded look at the current position of the city with refinanced debt and a resolve to balance their budget reveals a bright future. The explosive growth the city experienced and overcapitalized on won’t return, but certainly steady growth and recovery are already appearing. Those of us that have hung around through interminable budget meetings know that the long term outlook projected for Glendale, especially with the Coyotes as the anchor tenant in Westgate, is attainable once profligate spending is curtailed.
The NHL has their own problems with the current lockout. I really don’t know whether to expect to see hockey this season or not, mostly because my area of concentration has been worrying whether we will have a team or not. Now that we’re looking to the future, the lockout resolution is more urgent than it has been.
Let’s ignore arguments concerning greediness on either side, who is an idiot, who is power mad, who is selfish, all of that noise. Both the NHL and the NHLPA have incentive to resolve their issues and get a season started. The growth of the NHL is in danger AGAIN if the deadlock continues too much longer, the vaunted TV contract with NBC will lose some of it’s value to growing the game. Maybe that’s why, when put on the spot by a CBC reporter yesterday not allowing anything but a yes or no answer to “Do we have a season?”, NHL number two guy (not a scatological reference) Bill Daly answered “yes”.
Of course, that was yesterday and as I write this it looks like games will be cancelled through January 14, a bad sign.
Beyond the lockout, there remain problems with financially underperforming teams, one of them (the Coyotes) owned by the NHL. Despite exhortations from north of the border, the Stanley Cup winning LA Kings, among others, disprove the theory that “non-traditional” markets can’t have a successful NHL team. Expect the NHL to grow and strengthen these markets even as they grow themselves “organically” with greater interest in youth hockey spurred by the local NHL team. Once the NHL stabilizes, it appears ready for yet another growth spurt from, perhaps, new expansion teams in Seattle and Quebec City. Neither of those cities will be getting OUR team and, yes, the Coyotes used to be the Winnipeg Jets so we’re not giving that history to the Thrashers either.
Over the next several years, not right away, the accuracy of the “Hockey The Hard Way” that we are so proud of will fade away. Having people at the helm of the team that HOCKEY BUSINESS guys instead of frequently bankrupt truckers or real estate guys is the final piece of the puzzle that the Coyotes need to be a more consistent force to be reckoned with. We should be excited that the Coyotes will finally be on the track to full barns and profit, think about what it was like during the playoff run last season and stretch that throughout the year. And, when we have to pay a few more bucks for harder to get tickets, we should gladly pay it as part of the price of success.
The group known as Hockey Partners, led by Greg Jamison, will be building on a history of success in building a powerhouse franchise in a non-traditional hockey market. We can rest assured that, while the Phoenix metro area is NOT San Jose, the hockey business and entertainment business acumen possessed by our new owners is more than capable of getting the job done regardless of current or future challenges. Looking ONLY at the effort, work ethic and dedication it took to complete THIS deal, it should be enough to reassure even the skeptics that the future of the Coyotes in the hands of Hockey Partners is bright.
The other pieces are already in place, for the most part. The coaching staff is second to NONE in the NHL, even the haters look at our coaches and begrudgingly have to give them props. We have GMDM (General Manager Don Maloney), enough said. While GMDM may have made a mistake by inadvertently hiring me as a scout at the pivotal Glendale City Council meeting on November 27, he doesn’t make many real mistakes and has squeezed his limited hockey dollars into a championship team.
We have the guys on the ice that got us a Pacific Division Championship this past season. As a namedropper, I can say that Coach Tippett told ME at the Ice Den one day that the team he is putting on the ice for the coming season may be the best we’ve ever had.
Meanwhile, how cool is it that we regular hockey fans get the chance to talk hockey with guys like Tippett and Maloney and they listen to what YOU say as if you actually have a clue what you’re talking about? VERY cool! I’m not sure how many other NHL teams or staff afford that sort of access to their main guys, but it’s a great feeling to be part of the Coyotes family.
Thankfully, we were able to keep our Captain, in my opinion the class of the NHL and the best Captain in the league. Because we have Doaner, it’s likely we will also be able to retain Mike Smith when he decides to sign a new, undoubtedly gigantic, contract. We have offensive “kids” like Boedker that can rocket up and down the ice, supported by veterans with a solid grasp of the Tippett system. We have a wealth of crazy good defensemen, some of them only babies working their way into the NHL. The best example is OEL, getting better every season and already a force to be reckoned. Our defensive corps is gaining respect in the NHL, great when they stay home and always ready to jump up into the offensive zone.I won’t mention the power play, there’s always hope.
Get ready to shed the sackcloth and ashes, Coyotes brothers and sisters. Coyotes trolls, get ready to cry your tears.
We may not get to play any games this season and our new banner might have to sit in the basement of the arena until next October. There’s worse things in life, we’re Coyotes fans, we can stick this out too and do it without whining. It’s been tough being a hardcore Coyotes fan, we’ll freely admit that. We’re still here, though. So is our team. None of us fans gave up on the team, nor did the City of Glendale or Hockey Partners. We’re proud of our “Hockey The Hard Way” mentality and, because of that, teams that come into our house do so at their own risk.
We’re on the doorstep of something exciting here in the desert where hockey isn’t supposed to thrive. There will be even more new sheets of ice all over the valley to join the brand new one at Ice Den. With more ice comes more ice time which means more kids are going to consider hockey as their thing to do. It won’t be long when people will stop offering their condolences when they notice the Coyotes stickers on your ride, instead they’ll want to chatter about how well our team is doing.
This is the payoff, boys and girls, for sticking with the team and battling in the corners to keep them around. This is what we’ve been fighting, NOT waiting, for.
As the more famous every day Todd Walsh often says, it’s time for US to “Enjoy the ride!”
Thanks for keeping the faith, Coyotes brothers and sisters. You’re the best. Seriously.