Tough Audience

February 7, 2013

Jamison and Bettman

Jamison and Bettman

Here we are, a week past the City of Glendale deadline for Hockey Partners to consummate their purchase of the Coyotes from the NHL and close the arena agreement. We all know the deadline came and went, so it’s back to cliff edge surfing for the Phoenix Coyotes and their fans. It’s too early in the process to know whether the statement by Glendale mayor Weiers about two other interested buyers is actually true, and it’s too early to know whether Greg Jamison is willing to dive back into the morass and give it one more try.

What’s clear already, though, is that Greg Jamison is taking the full brunt of the failure of this deal in the minds of the fans and maybe even the team and the team office. In the wake of a gigantic disappointment for MANY people, the Tweetyface social media crew has decided who the villain is in this debacle and are happy to express their opinion. The gist of the argument is that Greg Jamison lied to everybody and knew for a long time the deal was dead. I even saw criticism of Jamison playing golf in a Pro Am event after just spending eighteen months in a failed effort to buy the team. Really? The guy can’t even fulfill his promise to play some CHARITY golf after a disappointment like he was facing?

Tough crowd! You have to wonder what it takes to earn the respect of the people condemning Jamison and his efforts.

History Lessons

I claim no “inside knowledge” or any other super-secret connection to the Jamison group. My opinions are based on my outlook on the facts and a lot of work over the past NINE months that our band of fans has performed. Insider information isn’t necessary for these arguments, anyway, the public record offers sufficient evidence that Greg Jamison doesn’t deserve the heat he’s taking for the failure of this sale.

A smart guy I admire said it’s not surprising that the heat is on Jamison and none of the other players (Glendale, bankers, NHL) involved. He said something like “Don’t tell me about the storms, tell me if you brought the ship in” describing the effect. Sounds like a apropos statement, nobody cares about the problems Jamison had getting the deal done, they only care whether it was finished or not. And, since it wasn’t, he is the guy with the black hat. Maybe, but the history of the failed deal indicates otherwise.

Greg Jamison and his group spent eighteen months trying to make a deal with a 20+ year commitment that would result in the Coyotes remaining in Glendale. That fact ALONE should give him a pass for an eventually negative result. Instead, he’s painted as a self aggrandizing liar. It’s important to remember that before Mr. Jamison became involved in the process there had already been YEARS of conflict and failed results revolving around the bankrupt Coyotes. During those eighteen months, there were significant obstacles to recruiting and keeping investors interested in the team AND protecting their investments. Jamison battled through ALL of those obstacles to investor, player and fan confidence such as:

  • After a deal was successfully negotiated with the City of Glendale and approved by the City Council on June 8, a lawsuit was filed on June 13 by the Goldwater Institute on the behalf of Ken Jones and Joe Cobb to rescind the emergency nature of the deal approval. Glendale conceded the emergency nature of the measure approval but won the rest of the case.
  • The aforementioned Ken and Joe filed a referendum attempt to bring the arena deal to the ballot in November. Glendale First! was formed and thug history began, getting involved in their defeat.
  • A coincidental and better organized and funded effort to kill the temporary sales tax (Prop 457) would have also effectively killed the Coyotes. Who would be confident their investment in a hockey team was safe if a ballot measure that would kill everything was not yet voted down? Glendale First! was again involved in the successful defeat of this measure, yet the consummation of the deal had now been delayed until election day (November 6).
  • The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the NHL and the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) expired on September 15, 2012, one day after Shane Doan re-signed with the Phoenix Coyotes. The resulting lockout lasted until January 6, 2013, two days before the Glendale City Council meeting destined to approve the renegotiated arena deal.
  • The Glendale City Council gives direction to Horatio Skeete towards the end of August to renegotiate the deal resulting in significant multi-million dollar concessions from Jamison and instituting performance penalties and rewards.
  • Glendale CM Yvonne Knaack expresses her reluctance to approve the renegotiated deal just prior to the scheduled vote on the new agreement, resulting in further multi-million dollar concessions from Jamison.
  • The re-re-renegotiated deal including the January 31 deadline is approved on November 27, 2012 and then AGAIN-ish on January 8, 2013. A reasonable person would understand that this is the first date that the entire deal could reasonably be consummated between all parties involved.
Matt Hulsizer and crew (including Dad)

Matt Hulsizer and crew (including Dad)

Before Greg Jamison got involved with the Coyotes sale it was already subject to “deal fatigue” because of failed attempts and previous controversy around the team. Everybody was already sick of hearing about the Coyotes 18 months ago. Many of the investors that would logically be approached to become involved in a hockey team had already been “worked over” by Ice Edge, Reinsdorf, Hulsizer and who knows who else. So the total pool of money available was reduced.

Put yourself in the shoes of an investor writing a big check for a venture (an NHL hockey team) that on it’s BEST day is an extremely risky one and read the above list of obstacles. Many of them might give you pause when asked to put pen to paper, right? The blame for none of those obstacles can be laid at the doorstep of Greg Jamison.

Realistically, it’s possible Mr. Jamison and his crew began their FINAL earnest negotiations with the NHL (representatives conspicuously absent from the January 8 City Council meeting) with slightly more than three weeks before the deadline. Did they have confidence that it would be done? Of course they did and, when asked, expressed that confidence.

Because of that confidence, now they were all “lying” according to the judgmental crowd. Most of this crowd, by the way, when offered multiple opportunities to actually make a difference in the fate of their team had other things to do and other checks to write.

What’s curious to me is why, considering the history of this deal, those fingers aren’t being pointed at the City of Glendale or the NHL?

NHL Dichotomy

It’s not even worth going over how many ways the City of Glendale has been deficient in negotiating a resolution to the bag handed to them with the Jerry Moyes bankrupting of the Coyotes. The NHL, on the other hand, deserves at least a little review in the blame game.

First, Coyotes fans, if not Glendale residents, should be grateful for the continued support of the NHL in keeping the Coyotes in town. They continue to offer public, restrained optimism that the Coyotes remaining in Glendale long term is possible. Perhaps the size of the TV market in Phoenix is their only reason for such support, the NHL has never definitively articulated their reason(s).

It was telling, to me, that the NHL didn’t jet NHL representatives Bill Daly and Gary Bettman to the City Council meeting on November 27th. If I’m not mistaken, that was the first time an important vote in Glendale was skipped by those two gentlemen. I don’t believe anyone has asked them why they missed the meeting, I’m sure a generic “I was busy” answer would be the result. It’s possible that’s true, I suppose.

We lost half of the NHL hockey season. It was interesting to see the blame ping pong back and forth between the NHL and the NHLPA depending on the stage of the public negotiations. What isn’t debatable is that one of the parties involved in that dispute with all the posturing and brinksmanship was the NHL including the Board of Governors.

So, then, considering the recent AND more distant history of negotiations with the NHL aren’t they having many more fingers pointing at them for the failure of this deal? By most accounts, the NHL stood fast on the $170M price of the team despite the actual market value of the team being considerably less. Doesn’t it seem obvious to anyone other than myself that, perhaps, had the NHL really wanted to consummate this deal with Hockey Partners they could have found a little “wiggle room” SOMEWHERE in the deal? Assuming it was a money issue, couldn’t they have worked out some agreement with Hockey Partners to satisfy a balance AFTER the purchase of the team was in place and stability of the Coyotes was restored?

I, for one, think that they could have.

So What’s The Point?

The point is that negativity is bad and positivity is good. It does seem that in the social media space, at least, people have gotten the Jamison bashing out of their system. We’ll see what it’s like at the rink tonight at the Hawks game.

My now devalued hat signed by Jamison and four councilmembers on 11/27

My now devalued hat signed by Jamison and four councilmembers on 11/27

I am not being a Jamison apologist and nobody imagines that they are worthy of blind, unquestioning support. But people, including people in the public eye, have a reasonable assumption that they can EARN the support of people. My personal opinion is that Greg Jamison and his Hockey Partners people have earned that support in spades. Bashing them is counterproductive enough to be noticed by other potential buyers and investors and, of course, by the press and troll brigade. How does that help attain the goal that we all want?

Where we are now is a bad place. People that care about the Coyotes and their home in Arizona were dealt a serious yet not fatal blow on January 31. We all had a lot of eggs in the Hockey Partners basket and it didn’t work out. It’s normal to have a sense of betrayal and once that’s active, the next reaction is to figure out who betrayed us.

We are not dead yet. It’s not unrealistic to expect we continue to have an opportunity to keep our team here. It’s not unrealistic to expect that, based on past history, there will be opportunities for the hard core Coyotes fan base to pitch in again in some fashion to support the resolution of the four year corner we find ourselves painted into. There are probably a thousand ways to get a deal done that’s good for ALL parties involved, all that’s required is the will to make it happen and the willingness to let Jerry Weiers take the credit.

Did I say that out loud?

Keep the faith and the civility, Coyotes brothers and sisters, we’re still here!

TheLegend says:

Matt…. unless I’m mistaken there has been no report from any media outlet that Jamison never had any investors. So for you to assume he never had any is foolish.

Yes…. the NHL has fought to keep a team here in Glendale. But the real reason why the NHL bought the franchise was to protect their rights to determine where they place a franchise.

Forbes has put the Coyotes value in the Phoenix market at roughly $138 million. Almost precisely the dollar amount of Jerry Reinsdorf’s original bid in BK court was. The NHL paid $140 million to buy the team out of BK court. But they want any potential buyer to pay $170 million. So now you have to ask yourself where in the world would someone pay $30 million over market value for a depressed asset??

Simple fact of the matter is, the NHL needs to price this franchise where it’s worth and consider the cost of something just north of a million to each of the other 29 teams as the cost to keeping those location rights that mean so much to them.

AZ SChumi says:

Ok…EVERYBODY!

In your best Eddie Arnold and Ava Gabor voices:

” Green A – cres we are th-e-re!!!!!”

Bruce says:

Do you think Coyotes make money ? I’ve been at a game against Colombus and we was like 4500.

I rather see them moving than see another investor make bankcrupcy.

I’m from Tucson i case you want to know.

Of course this donkey is actually from Quebec, evidenced by his statement, his poor grammar and the spelling errors typical of a French speaking chump.

Oh and he didn’t even bother using the typical Quebecois troll technique of using a proxy server, his IP 75.152.64.26 is in Quebec.

Matt J. says:

Right, because only those filthy frenchies have poor spelling & grammar on the internet, right?

Fact is, it’s not the NHL’s fault that the Coyotes can’t get sold; hell, the NHL’s been doing everything in its power to keep them there against all financial logic. The fact that Jamison couldn’t get a single investor on board is mainly the fault of him and the city of Glendale, not the NHL.

Oh, and full disclaimer: I’m from Calgary, Canada. If you want to use that to discredit this from your bigoted mind, go ahead, I don’t care.

Your bigoted mind is showing, Chuckles.

Where is your proof that Jamison couldn’t get a single investor on board? If your confidence level is high, perhaps you’d be interested in a substantial wager to back up your claim?

Thanks for reading my blog post, though, I always appreciate the support of people from north of the border.

Now, about that wager…

AZ Schumi says:

i case you are from Tucson, please stay home. I rather see you avoid bankcrupcy than Coyotes make money.

We was like not needing you at a Colombus game or against Las Angalas or Sam Joese.

By the way, uh….Bruce (ahem),
is it possible to get decent Vichyssoise in Tucson? How does that fare with a Tex-Mex twist?

jd says:

Thanks George,

I’m one of those that don’t believe Mr. Jamison would make such a public stance of buying the team to be a “phony” actor. There is too much to loose for him personally (and professionally), as he if the “face” of the last attempt to buy the team. I don’t know what to make of the new Mayor. One statement he looks like he is very “pro” Coyotes..as in the team saying. Then he juxtaposes any comment to make it “tea party” friendly…i.e. whats best for the “tax payers” bullshit to pander to them. And this new “two possible” buyers in somewhat weak also. This “double speak” is getting on my nerves and so is the GCC also. Aside from Mr.Martinez who is willing to “listen” to any offers from any potential buyers. Even Mr. Sherwood is sounding like a “tea party” type. What I can’t stand the most from the GCC is the constant promoting of the “myth” that if the Coyotes are gone:

A) there is no costs or payments associated with the area
B) empty arenas generate “revenue” I’ve never read of the empty building NOT named “Graceland” that generated a profit
C) any company cough….”PMG” can book 41 plus events and make more money than the Coyotes
D) tanger outlets are here…we don’t need the team!

The councils silence on any of these “myths” just remind me of the saying…….

“If you say a lie long enough it becomes the accepted truth”

Best wishes,
Joe