Updated: Arizona votes to keep Coyotes for another season … and beyond

As expected, the Glendale City Council agreed to pay the NHL an additional $25 million that would keep the Coyotes in Arizona for another season. The vote, 5-2, was agreed upon late Tuesday night. The city paid the NHL $25 million last week for operating expenses for the league-owned team for last season.

With the Coyotes safe for another season, the NHL can continue to work out a deal with prospective buyer Matthew Hulsizer. It could also search for another owner as the deal with Hulsizer has been complicated and been met with some resistance from a local watchdog group concerned with the use of taxpayer money.

The vote could prove to be more than a one-year fix despite the on-going ownership issue. Included by the vote was a provision that the NHL has the right to renew the agreement annually for 10 years. That could mean up to $250 million to the league to cover the losses incurred by the franchise.

Phoenix has long had the eye of True North Sports and Entertainment, a Winnipeg group interested in purchasing the franchise and relocating it to Manitoba.

The news is not good for the Thrashers as True North is likely to move its efforts to obtain a team to Atlanta.

“We are continuing to seek solutions for the Thrashers,” Thrashers co-owner Bruce Levenson told the AJC Wednesday. “I will  not comment on any speculation.”

The Atlanta Spirit has been trying to sell the Thrashers in earnest for several years. Co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in February, and again last week, that there is a “sense of urgency” to find a buyer and/or investor to keep the team here. If one can not be found, relocation is possible. With Winnipeg ready to pay $170 million, $60 million which would go to the NHL as a relocation fee, the door is open.

I was told this week that such a deal “could move quickly.”

I know this is not good news for Thrashers fans. The fact is there is a possibility Atlanta could lose an NHL franchise for the second time. A move may not come in time for next year. It may not come at all. The search does continue for a local buyer with at least two groups expressing interest in keeping the team here. However talks have not moved past the preliminary stage. Perhaps Tuesday’s news out of Arizona will speed up the process.

I expect a lot more will be known in the next 7-10 days.

Colleague Tim Tucker and I continue to report this story and will bring you any news as there are developments.

148 comments Add your comment

Alan R.

May 11th, 2011
10:33 am

Another thing that would be really nice? Get these slimeball owners on the record. Ask Gearon and Levenson straight up if they’re talking to people in Winnipeg. All many of us have heard, rumor wise, is that a deal is already done. Is a deal done? Is this team really moving to Winnipeg?

We’re tired of the lies. All we heard for the years they were litigating is that the team was in no danger of being moved. Everyone from Gearon to Levenson to Ben Wright assured us of this. Now, all of the sudden, it’s an “urgent” matter? Something smells awful in those statements, but no one is getting to the bottom of this.

Chris Vivlamore

May 11th, 2011
10:37 am

Alan R.: Rest assured, although we have had Gearon and Levenson on the record – those efforts are ongoing. Especially now with Phoenix settled.You are correct about your ‘urgent’ issue. I brought that up in my previous blog. It could conceivably be that three months after that statement the team is gone.

This Guy Right Here

May 11th, 2011
10:43 am

Chris Vivlamore, several franchises recently could have conceivably been relocated, but the NHL fought to keep them in place. Is there any reason that you know of why I shouldn’t expect the NHL to fight to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta?

Chris Vivlamore

May 11th, 2011
10:47 am

This Guy Right Here: I thought the same thing. Certainly the league would want – and work as they did in Phoenix – to keep the team in Atlanta. That may still be the case now that the Coyote situation is settled. I don’t know the reason they would not do it. I can only tell you there is disappointment that it hasn’t happened yet.

[...] Journal Constitution:  Arizona votes to keep Coyotes for another year.  Not the news fans of Atlanta wanted to hear.  Now they can expect a lot more attention [...]

Alan R.

May 11th, 2011
10:48 am

I really don’t mean to hammer so hard, Chris. I guess I just expected something a bit more hard-hitting when I popped this open this morning. I know they’re “on the record” in a manner of speaking, but no one is throwing tough questions at them. Kincade did, on the radio, but Gearon dodged them as if he was playing a game of Frogger.

“Have you talked to anyone from Winnipeg?” It’s a tough question, but such an easy one for them to answer. Yes, or no? We’re tired of being screwed around by these owners.

Knowing is half the battle, but I feel like this is more of the blind leading the blind. None of us truly know what’s going on, and the folks we’re depending on aren’t helping much. I know this sort of stuff takes time (there’s a reason why I’m not a journalist, after all), but a lot of us also feel like these guys have one foot out of the door already.

GoCoyotes

May 11th, 2011
10:52 am

Thrasher Fans – It sounds like you hear the same crap that we Coyotes fans hear about; no fan base, the team has to practically give away tickets, etc. Most of those comments come from people who don’t attend the games. I’ve been to a Thrashers game when I was on business in Atlanta and there is a big, loud, fan base there, as there is here in Phoenix. I feel your pain, believe me. Don’t listen to the trolls, just hope that the powers that have the control can find a way to keep your team. We’ve been lucky enough to buy another year to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix. I wish you the same luck. There’s nothing worse than ripping a team away from the loyal fans.

Chris Vivlamore

May 11th, 2011
10:54 am

Alan R: And they may have one foot out door already. Trust me when I tell you I asked both owners – and others – all the tough questions too. Much tougher than Kincade. Remember who broke that story. I spoke to Gearon for two and a half hours – not 15 minutes. The owners simply can’t answer that question. They can’t talk about another team or city like that. ‘That is a question for the NHL’ would be the response.

I hope this helps.

BigMomma

May 11th, 2011
10:56 am

Chris, could you find out what the Thrashers’ season ticket renewal situation is right now, along with number of new season ticket plans sold?

There has not been much of a campaign yet, but when we purchased our first ever season ticket package at the February Select-a-Seat event, our rep said that purchases were higher than they expected but I don’t know if he was talking only Thrashers or overall. It would be nice to hear some actual numbers.

AtlFlamesFan

May 11th, 2011
11:02 am

Does anyone know Mr. Bettmen’s email address?

Mark

May 11th, 2011
11:04 am

Why, when the NHL has worked so hard to keep other teams in their home city, does everyone think the NHL is just going to allow the Thrashers to move out of town. Atlanta is a top 10 US Market. It would be hugely embarrassing to the NHL for Atlanta to lose a team TWICE. I seriously do not think they will let it happen. And, if it does happen, it won’t be until after all other options are exhausted. The NHL fought to keep Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Nashville in Nashville, Phoenix in Phoenix. They will fight to keep Atlanta in Atlanta.

Bluelander

May 11th, 2011
11:10 am

Chris: I have enjoyed your reporting on the team all year long. When the news it not good, trust me you are the last person I would blame or take it out on.

Now that Phoenix is off the front burner I would like to see you press the ASG on who they dealing with and why they wanted to unload the hockey franchise from the instant they bought all 3 properties. I would also like them pressed on whether they feel they are at least partially to blame for the situation they find themselves in now. All we hear is them insinuate that the fans don’t support the team and that the situation is dire (as though that is going to somehow influence someone to appear with $150M). and that maybe the market can’t support the sport. I’d also like some digging on these folks that are apparently out there and would keep the team here. There are other rumors (not just from Kincade..check out NHL wiki) that say one group is close to signing an exclusive negotiating period. What about following that lead? Lastly, I don’t recall seeing this from you but as someone who has been in Atlanta and presumably in the rinks around town…what about an article about why Atlanta can support a team. Make a case for it. What do the players say about playing in Atlanta?

hop

May 11th, 2011
11:11 am

The only way Hockey can make it in Atlanta is to move the club outside of I-285 where vast majority of Hockey fans reside.

Few fans desire to fight the traffic to go Downtown to pay huge parking fees when the Gwinnett Hockey team does not charge for parking.
the Team needs to be closer to its fan base which will never happen because of the politics involved in having all teams located downtown.

Alan R.

May 11th, 2011
11:14 am

Kincade also asked Gearon if the arena would be impaired, to which Gearon responded affirmatively.

It helps a little, Chris. The “in the dark” feeling isn’t helpful, though. I understand you’re doing what you can, but we’re all very fearful of the future of this franchise — whether or not the postings from the Forbes Sports Money blog is accurate..

Crommers

May 11th, 2011
11:26 am

Winnipeg can support a team. I was only a kid when they left, and can financially support them now. Comparing my parents generation to now is silly. They blew it and as a kid, what could i do? Our arena is just fine for hockey and i will gladly pay top dollar now for season tickets. we will not make the same mistake our parents did, rest assured NHL hockey will have no problem succeeding in Winnipeg.
But thats all besides the point, this league is suffering right now and needs to get back on its feet. Phoenix, Atlanta, Florida, unfortunately in NJ and NYI, and now Columbus are losing a lot of money right now. The issue clearly isnt the fans on this site, but the remainder of “potential” fans that have to come out. These fans need to support these teams. At some point we need to stop looking at “potential” and look at reality. For the sake of the league.

oh, bettmans email: FNuptheNHL@gmail.com

Joe Friday

May 11th, 2011
11:30 am

ahh, the blog monster ate my post, can you free it up, Chris?

William Satterwhite

May 11th, 2011
11:32 am

“The search does continue for a local buyer with at least two groups expressing interest in keeping the team here. However talks have not moved past the preliminary stage.”

Is there any indication as to just why this is the case? I understand the obvious answer is that the prospective buyers haven’t moved things forward but is it completely outside of the realm of possibility that ASG has held things up on their end in order to wait and see how much they can get from Winnipeg?

I realize it takes a while to put a big business deal together but if ASG has been seeking out buyers for at least three years and actively working with prospective buyers since February, it seems things should have moved at least past the “preliminary stage” by now with someone if the goal really is to keep the team in town and not simply sell to the highest bidder (who of course was already spoken for until yesterday). It all just seems too oddly convenient that no deals to keep the team in Atlanta have moved forward beyond the “preliminary stage” that continues to get thrown out there. What does “preliminary stage” actually cover anyway?

chaz

May 11th, 2011
11:45 am

This Guy,

Your right, it is silly, but I was only trying to point out the obvious. I realize there are lots of foolish posters out there making stupid claims like Winnipeg is the best! or something idiotic; I just don’t think any preseason exhibition game between two away teams is any kind of accurate or fair guage of fan interest in Winnipeg.

Chinda

May 11th, 2011
11:47 am

Why does taxpayer money are used. If the player want to play in arizona why dont they used they own money to cover the loss most of then have millions in the bank. Why don’t they save they own job. Regular joe is tire of paying for everything

Joe McGrath

May 11th, 2011
11:59 am

C Viv. You’re doing a good job. Keep it up. Here’s some story ideas. Write something about Glavine’s efforts so far. Investigate Kincade’s claim. Procure a Bettman interview and tell them you are going to ask him questions submitted to you directly from Thrasher’s fans. If the questions are from us, then it doesn’t downgrade your professionalism to ask leading questions and “what if” questions.

KLS1

May 11th, 2011
11:59 am

ASG needs a little tough love from Bettman.

The real issue is that no potential owner wants to get in bed with these ASG clowns because they will still have the operating rights to the building. Would you go into business with these guys?

If we could get someone to step up and buy the Hawks/Thrashers/Philips arena I would be hopeful. But I just don’t see anyone buying all or part of a team that is still tied to the seven mental midgets that have already run all 3 teams and what was once a atate of the art arena into the ground.

Hope like hell I am wrong.

PS: Leave Chris alone, he is doing his job just fine.

This Guy Right Here

May 11th, 2011
12:02 pm

chaz, to be honest, I don’t think it’s an accurate way to gauge potential NHL support either. I was just trying to “troll the troll” if you know what I mean. Personally, I think Winnipeg would do well with an NHL team (And I think the 8000+ average attendance for the Moose is testament to that – 2nd most in the AHL.) I just want them to keep their hands off of my team.

52,53,54 Bossy's record is no more!

May 11th, 2011
12:04 pm

The NHL doesn’t give one lick about the actual fans showing up at games, they just want owners who will blindly follow M.Bison Bettman and his visions of being one of “the big 4″ leagues. From what I read Atlanta Spirit has brought a lot of grief to Thrashers fans, but look to the ones who let them into the league in the first place. I’m as big of a hockey fan as there is, but the reality is the NHL is bush league. Bettman and his toy Daly and sheep owners are leading down a dangerous path. And to CHRIS V., I for one have thought your reporting on this has been great. As Lawless has probably told you, he gets ripped daily by the folks here in Winnipeg for either using too many “if’s” and “maybes”…when in reality people are just upset because they aren’t getting what they want to hear.

Chris Vivlamore

May 11th, 2011
12:05 pm

Joe McGrath: I have investigated the claim made by the local radio personality. I stand by my reporting. The chances of the purchase of all three entities from the Atlanta Spirit remain “one in a million.”

BLUELANDbeliever

May 11th, 2011
12:07 pm

A: Will people PLEASE leave C-Viv alone? The man is doing his job for gosh sakes! Its not like he is some guy pulling strings to tick yall off so stop being 4 year olds and taking out your temper tantrums on other people.

B: The fact of the matter is, AS LLC is NOT doing a single favor for anybody. They are sniveling little cheapskates who solely want to own something to say they own it. The problem is that they have run the team and franchise into the ground so far that they cant turn a penny profit in the business world.

C: *ATLANTA GET YOUR BUTTS TO PHILIPS ARENA NEXT SEASON. DO NOT BE INTIMIDATED BY THESE SNOBS OR STUPID CANUCKS. IF YOU CARE ABOUT THIS TEAM YOU WILL SHOW YOUR PASSION IN THE STANDS AND NOT FROM YOUR COUCH*

[...] Post By Google News Click Here For The Entire Article May 11th, 2011 | Category: [...]

William Satterwhite

May 11th, 2011
12:11 pm

Chris V: regarding ASG not selling the whole package, is that because an interested buyer of all three entities doesn’t actually exist or is it because ASG has completely ruled out the possibility of selling all three no matter what?

Brendan

May 11th, 2011
12:16 pm

I’d love to read a quote from Commissioner Bettman that reads, “We will do everything in our power to prevent the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers franchise.” How hard is that, for a Commissioner to say? I think he’s said something to the effect of, “We don’t consider relocations lightly or foolheartedly. To my knowledge, there are no immediate plans to relocate the Thrashers next season.” That’s not an exact quote, by any stretch. It’s just the usual, vagueness that we get out of the league offices.

I think what we, the readers of the Vivlamore blog, hope to avoid is the ambiguity of the situation. But, maybe, at this juncture, there isn’t anything but murkiness and uncertainty. No matter what happens, trolls from Manitoba are going to be here. And the only thing that might silence them … is the Commissioner making a statement like, “I, Commissioner Bettman, will NEVER ALLOW an NHL team in Winnipeg, on my Watch.” I don’t think we should hold our breath for that. And even if he did say something to this effect, the Winnipeg fans will still say, “Oh yeah! Wanna bet! Can the Commissioner be so blind to the sales price???” Nothing will dash their hopes. For them, every day is Christmas morning, and they’re just waiting to see what Santa Claus has brought them. And if you suggest that Santa Claus isn’t coming, their response will be, “I’ll tell you what he brought in the morning.”

Chris Vivlamore and Tim Tucker have to report on this story. They cannot simply choose not to cover it. Imagine, “What’s the response in the Atlanta paper?” Answer: “Nothing. They’re not covering the story.” That’d be absurd. Hopefully, something concrete will come out in the next 7-10 days. I cannot believe, for one second, that the 2011-12 season will be played anywhere but Atlanta. It’s the 2012-13 season that is in doubt.

Do we have any quotes from the season ticket representatives? The one I spoke with at the Penguins game, on April 10, 2011, said, and I quote, “The NHL deadline for filing a relocation request was January 1, 2011. That date passed, with no request being filed. So, yes, we will have hockey at Blueland next Fall.” I never asked, “What about refunds?” Or “What if I want to buy season tickets for the 2012-13 season? Is that an option? And what about refunds?”

I’m not a journalist. I’m just a hockey enthusiast. And, really, what’s a ticket rep going to say, other than to regurgitate what an owner has instructed them to say. Still, a quote is a quote. At least let them say “refunds will be given, if the team relocates.” Wouldn’t a statement like that help them sell tickets?

The Balkan

May 11th, 2011
12:20 pm

I”ll buy all three TODAY only if you idiots promise to stop yelling “KNIGHTS” during the National Anthem!!

Over it all

May 11th, 2011
12:27 pm

If Bettman and the NHL let ASG “win” and relocate this team, at least I know I will save money for not re-upping the NHL package or tickets. I will be done with the sport for good. I’ll make sure I will discourage as many people from it as possible.Will it matter? Of course not, but it will make me feel better.

Batcork

May 11th, 2011
12:27 pm

Regarding the Raine Group’s alleged statement to prospective bidders that the arena is better off without with a hockey tenant….
a) It’s ludicrous (in my opinion)
b) It’s a classic tactic to steer away low-ball offers that would be a waste of time fheir client
c) It’s not a blanket conclusion you can even reach in a vacuum without weighing the terms of the tenancy, i.e. rent, parking & concessions revenue sharing, operating cost sharing, etc.

XCnuck

May 11th, 2011
12:29 pm

Fans, remember, this guy’s job is to get attention, and sometimes the best way to do so is a big, heaping, nasty pile of NEGATIVITY.

The AJC should be supporting the team and not giving in to the Canadian media that has conjured up these rumors of moving. A Canadian reading this article would say: “even they know their city sucks for hockey! they don’t deserve a team!”

Smarten up, “Viv”

Stick'em

May 11th, 2011
12:30 pm

We need to get Blank to buy the team…beg him if we have to. Atlanta needs hockey and we have supported this team very well.

too many on the ICE

May 11th, 2011
12:35 pm

Does this mean “Select a Seat” will be cancelled?

too many on the ICE

May 11th, 2011
12:38 pm

Select a Seat in Winnipeg was just announced May 21st relocated from Philipps Arena.

too many on the ICE

May 11th, 2011
12:41 pm

How about five questions with the zamboni driver?

Smoothie

May 11th, 2011
12:56 pm

THIS –> “Now that Phoenix is off the front burner I would like to see you press the ASG on who they dealing with and why they wanted to unload the hockey franchise from the instant they bought all 3 properties. I would also like them pressed on whether they feel they are at least partially to blame for the situation they find themselves in now. All we hear is them insinuate that the fans don’t support the team and that the situation is dire (as though that is going to somehow influence someone to appear with $150M). and that maybe the market can’t support the sport. I’d also like some digging on these folks that are apparently out there and would keep the team here.”

These are the questions which beg to be asked. And if they’ve been asked, they need to be taken to task for evading these questions. And why is the Rainge Group advising prospective buyers that arena operations would actually be better off without hockey and that it would not be a problem losing those 44 dates? That’s not their job to make a potential investor’s decision for them. Investors looking to buy should have their own advisory team in place…let them do their due diligence without trying to dissuade them. If true, that just smacks of duplicitous intent to undermine the mission of trying to sell the team. I can’t imagine Gary Bettman would be very pleased to learn of such a tactic being employed. He certainly didn’t like it when Balsille tried to circumvent the league’s by-laws on two different occasions.

Brendan

May 11th, 2011
1:02 pm

Jim Ballsillie has all the money in the world. He could probably buy Europe, if it were for sale. Is there a hockey in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Yes or no?

Joe Friday

May 11th, 2011
1:05 pm

“I have investigated the claim made by the local radio personality. I stand by my reporting. The chances of the purchase of all three entities from the Atlanta Spirit remain “one in a million.””

I believe you. Kincade is never right, even a broken clock gets something right once in a while . . . these guys want to sell the hockey team, not all three, they make money off the Hawks and the Arena, and they lose less by letting the Thrashers move than they do letting the arena sit empty. Blue Jackets just announced they expect to lose $25 million next year. Do the math, they lose less with an empty arena.

Now free up my blog post, Chris, I had your back and the blog filter ate it up!

mcrin

May 11th, 2011
1:08 pm

“For them, every day is Christmas morning”

Hopefully it turns into Groundhog Day…the Bill Murray variety

Lamar

May 11th, 2011
1:11 pm

Please move the Florida Panthers before the Thrashers. Its clear Miami doesn’t support them. Move them to Winnipeg.

Allegra

May 11th, 2011
1:20 pm

The Thrashers have a good team. If you look at their results for the first half of the they were doing very well. But as the rumors of a possible move become more wide spread results slipped and for those who say players shouldn’t be affected need to have their heads examined. If people really want the Thrashers to stay why not take a page out of the Sacramento Kings fans book.

Mark

May 11th, 2011
1:22 pm

Hamilton is a suburb of Toronto. The Toronto Maple Leafs will not let a team move into their back yard.

KLS1

May 11th, 2011
1:24 pm

For $160M it may be cheaper to move all the fans from Winnepeg to Atlanta…that would be a win-win.

Bluelander

May 11th, 2011
1:26 pm

Refman

May 11th, 2011
1:47 pm

The Atlanta Knights did quite well here thank you! And it was due to a creative and very active ownership and GM and Marketing department. Ever hear the”Knights!” retort during the national Anthem? It goes to the point that Atlanta HAS rabid fans, but they are tired of Waddell and his useless airbag associates making empty promises awhile diluting the team roster year after year and putting a sub par product on the ic…If The Thrashers were a restaurant I would have had my last meal there about 7 yrs ago.

Thrashers27

May 11th, 2011
1:48 pm

C Viv, you’re doing a fine job. I’ve been a journalist for a long time myself and there will always be those readers/viewers who believe there is something more to a story than you’ve reported. That’s how all of the 9-11 conspiracy theories are perpetuated. Keep up the good work. You can only report what you are told from reliable sources…Only trouble with that is, I wouldn’t rely on anything Gearon, or any of the other octomonkeys have to say. They’ve not been honest with us from the get go, so they can all go take a flying leap.

JMT21

May 11th, 2011
1:51 pm

I believe that discussions with any potential local owners hasn’t passed the preliminary stage is because the asking price for the Thrashers remains up in the air.

We’ve heard the 110M figure as the asking price to keep the team local. If the rumors are true the guys in Winnipeg are offering 170M. 110M would go to ASG with 60M going to the league as a relocation fee. This 60M would help offset the losses the NHL is taking by keeping the Coyotes in the desert.

Aardvark Base

May 11th, 2011
2:04 pm

C-Viv– This morning on 680, Kincade claimed that a local reporter from the AJC was on-air with a Winnipeg radio show. The Winnipeg guy claimed that Kincade said the Thrashers were going to Winnipeg, and the AJC guy said nothing to refute it. Was it you? Wouldn’t that be fanning the flames a bit? I think Kincade is actually saying the opposite, that there are buyers in the background/secret that are going to come forward when the time is right. Like now, since the Phoenix situation is resolved. So was it you on the radio with Winnipeg?

too many on the ICE

May 11th, 2011
2:15 pm

Atlanta Spirit want a lot for a turd. They are trying to make up for their losses – the only person to “overpay” for the turd is a dumb Canadian.