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

AtlFlamesFan

May 11th, 2011
8:02 am

Chris V,

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

Assuming that you cannot divulge your sources, could you at least give us an indication of what direction it comes from? We all know that if it was up to the scums at ASG, the deal to ship the Thrash north would have happened a long time ago. Same story from the Winnipeg folks. However, the brakes on this process has always been the NHL. Has there been any indication that the Mr. Bettmen is ready to give up on Atlanta so quickly, after working so hard to keep the Yotes in Phoenix?

BigMomma

May 11th, 2011
8:09 am

I know the Thrashers have been “for sale” for several years, but I thought Gearon said they could not seriously consider anything until recently because of the lawsuit? That the Belkin situation caused them to not have clear title to the team? If this is true, then how can anyone say AS LLC has put in enough time to find a new owner who will keep the team here?

mcrin

May 11th, 2011
8:09 am

I echo AtlFlamesFan…why would the NHL go through so many hoops to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix and then let the Thrashers go in a heartbeat?

Let’s hope the NHL fights as hard to keep a team here…and that the clowns at ASG are gone as quickly as possible. Can we send THEM to Winnipeg?

Nate

May 11th, 2011
8:10 am

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

Chris – This is all conjecture on your part. By not naming a credible source all you do is p**s off Thrashers fans. Unless you are posting new quotes from Daly or Bettman there’s no point. I, like many other Thrahers’ fans, find it hard to believe that after standing behind franchises in Tampa, Nashville, and now Phoenix for three years with similar ownership problems the NHL will sell the Thrashers off to True North in a matter of weeks.

Do you really expect us to believe that the NHL thinks Glendale, Tampa, Nashville, and Winnipeg are better hockey markets than Atlanta? Bettman may be a lot of things, but he didn’t get to where he is now by being stupid. Any moron can see the problem with the Thrashers is a lack of ownership, not a lack of interest in hockey.

This Guy Right Here

May 11th, 2011
8:13 am

Chris Vivs doing his best to cater to Winnipeg trolls yet again.

Nate

May 11th, 2011
8:13 am

Also, don’t tell me the NHL needs to sell to recoup losses from having to take over the Phoenix ownership. That new TV deal the NHL signed off on with NBC and Comcast says the NHL’s finances are just fine.

DeanC

May 11th, 2011
8:22 am

Soon enough a the penny will drop. Hockey is and always will be a a niche sport. Over the years the NHL has tried many ways to bring “new” fans to the sport but it has not worked. Unfortunately it has been a pipe dream that ATL can sustain a hockey team. Again there is not enough of a fan base since it is a niche sport and I have always been a hockey fan for 30+ years, am a northern transplant to the ATL area, spent my time & monrey for over 10 years since I had become a Thrasher (ex-Devils) fan by deafult.

Now there are sustasinable fans on the sport on the blogs of the AJC but it is sorely the minority. Reality is = hockey can not be sustained just like it is hard to find “greens” on the menu in Camden. That is the way it is because it is that way 8-)

B. Thenet

May 11th, 2011
8:30 am

DeanC: I am a NJ transplant too. If the Devils missed the playoffs 10 of 11 years they would have moved to Nashville in the mid 90’s.

Few markets in the US would tolerate the Thrashers level of suck.

mcrin

May 11th, 2011
8:31 am

DeanC, I respectfully disagree with you. We are just now beginning to see the fruits of hockey in Atlanta, check out the youth leagues in the northern burbs (someone please open a rink on the SOUTH side) and the roller leagues on the south side. A new generation is growing the game here.

Also, the first 5 to 6 years was just fine attendance-wise. The Thrashers were mid-pack in average attendance.

Losing and a lousy ownership group will keeps fans away. It happened in Pittsburgh, it happened in Chicago, it happened in Washington, it happened in Boston. Why do people expect Atlanta to be any different?

Nate

May 11th, 2011
8:32 am

DeanC – How do you explain the Thrashers having numerous sellouts and averaging over 16,000 fans per game the only year they made the playoffs. Everybody on this blog buy up all the tickets?

This Guy Right Here

May 11th, 2011
8:33 am

DeanC, are you aware of the growth of youth and adult hockey in the Atlanta area at all? Also, dropping the fact that you’ve been a hockey fan for 30 years doesn’t make you an expert on the sport’s viability in Atlanta. The thrashers were never given a chance in this town.

Also, I wonder if you have the same feelings for your Devils, a team whose attendance is regularly in the NHL basement. Their attendance was terrible even after winning the Stanley Cup. We should start Devils to Winnipeg rumors.

DeanC is an idiot

May 11th, 2011
8:45 am

WITHOUT respect, I disagree with DeanC. He’s a moron. Would he have suggested that the Blackhawks move before they won the Cup and that Chicago wasn’t a hockey town??? Go back to Jersey and stay there….

Ox Baker

May 11th, 2011
9:02 am

Nevermind Dean, the issue is lack of anything concrete to report. Chris is fanning the Flames as it were. If there were groups speaking publickly, we would know. But they aren’t. Quotes from ASG jackholes mean nothing. So we must be patient until something tangible surfaces.
Until then, a heart punch for Detroit, Boston and Vancouver….

canofpeas

May 11th, 2011
9:02 am

I keep coming back to the fact that it would be ludicrous for the nhl to replace the atlanta market with winnipeg. To the extent they could keep that swap from happening I think they will.

KLS1

May 11th, 2011
9:08 am

That’s a lot of $ and the ASG wants desperately to shed this team, the only person that can save us is Bettman putting the breaks on this deal, but the $60M in relocation money doesn’t help. And with the fight in PHX I’m not sure he has it in him to hold another franchise in limbo until an owner appears.

It is just a crime that a new franchise that went 10 years being completely uncompetitive, with only one tiny sniff of the playoffs is blaming the fans for the possible relocation.

We deserve better, this management and ownership group should all rot in hell for destroying a new franchise faster than any other in the history of sports and then trying to blame it on the fans.

ASG, admit you are over your head, sell the Hawks/Thrash/Arena at a discount and leave town.

[...] Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: So with the Coyotes remaining Glendale for another season, the True North Sports and Entertainment group will turn their attention to Atlanta in their quest to bringing the NHL back to Winnipeg. The Atlanta Spirit have been trying to sell the Thrashers for several years, and there is a “sense of urgency” to find a buyer/investor to keep the team in Atlanta. Relocation is possible if they can’t find an owner to keep the team there. True North could be ready with $170 million, $60 million would go to the NHL for relocation fees. The deal could move quickly. A deal may not get done in time for next year, if at all to move the club. There are 2 local groups showing interest to keep the team, but talks haven’t gotten past the preliminary stages. [...]

jebediah

May 11th, 2011
9:10 am

ludicrous? Free tics to an ATL and 9.99 for an ATL vs MTL game is ludicrous… team is leaving, however, you may have the glory of a lame duck season.

Thomas Magnum

May 11th, 2011
9:12 am

It drives me crazy that there is little to no info what any steps are being taken to keep the team in Atlanta. There surely has to be some sort of effort going on from the NHL’s end.

Get The Puck Out

May 11th, 2011
9:13 am

It has nothing to do with fans and everything to do with ownership and lack of support from them in dollars. No one can lay any blame on the fans. Any team in any sports that would have been in the same situtation as the Thrashers have for the whole existence would be in the same boat. I just hope someone saves the team before this ship sinks.

moriler

May 11th, 2011
9:13 am

Speaking as a Thrashers fan who expects the Thrashers to stay (True North will try to wave money around, the NHL will stall them just long enough to make the Atlanta buyers actually step up instead of waffling), I have to say that Glendale got rooked big-time in this deal. At least the Atlanta buyers aren’t expecting the city to fork over a ton of change… sheesh.

AtlFlamesFan

May 11th, 2011
9:15 am

I too thought that a $60m relocation fee would be incentive for the NHL to let the Thrashers move. But that would have also applied to Phoenix, and obviously that did not happen. Bettmen must believe that the NHL’s long term interests are better served in Phoneix than Winnipeg. I cannot imagine that he would think any less of Atlanta. Especially considering what we have gone through with our ownership.

Sanjeev

May 11th, 2011
9:19 am

I agree with others how about the ASG moves to Winnipeg and sell it to someone who cares. Terrible ownership. No stars want to play here and the draft picks who become stars leave ASAP (Heatley, Hossa, and Kovie) because they know they’ll never make the playoffs. Outside of Cubs fans no one is willing to pay to see a losing team year after year.

Alan R.

May 11th, 2011
9:21 am

I’ve been told by an unnamed gas station attendant that I could win the lottery. Such a win “could happen quickly,” as soon as 10:59pm tonight.

Look, Chris. I liked what you did during the regular season. Until this “story” started to take shape, that is. Since then, there’s been a lot of talking, but yet saying nothing at all.

The conjecture and speculation in this and similar stories is painful to read through. Not because of what might happen, mind you, but because there’s very little actual reporting being done.

I respect what you’ve done thus far, Chris, and respect you as a person. However, with no investigations and no real reporting, I can’t say that I enjoy reading this stuff. This is TSN or Winnipeg Free Press level of gossip.

Thomas Magnum

May 11th, 2011
9:25 am

Amen Alan R!

shootoutloss

May 11th, 2011
9:25 am

Agreed with Alan R. C-Viv is doing nothing but brightening the spirits of the Winnipeg people. Starting to side with JK more than I am with Viv now. At least JK’s story is beneficial to us

jd

May 11th, 2011
9:38 am

I’m out of town and can’t get 680 on a work computer. Anyone know what JK had to say this morning on the Rude Awakening?

I’m not sure what Cviv’s agenda with this story is. Very odd takes on the situation. And the moving quickly comment just hangs there like a motza ball…

Chris Vivlamore

May 11th, 2011
9:43 am

Look folks, I understand your frustration with this whole situation. If you want to take it out on me, that’s fine. I’ve been in the newspaper business for 25 years. I have done solid reporting on this story. A simple update on what happened in Phoenix and all of a sudden I’m feeding the trolls and passing misinformation. What do you want me to do, not report that and how it relates to the Thrashers?

I can tell you I speak to a lot of people on a daily basis.People in the league and in the organization. So does colleague Tim Tucker now that he has assumed a sports business beat. We are giving you the facts as they stand today. I have not been wrong about anything and have tried to give you some perspective.

I have not written that the Thrashers are definitely going to move. It’s a possibility folks. It may not happen this season. I have written that also. There is a short window.

I have not suggested that the fans of the Thrashers are responsible for the current situation.

Finally, for anyone to suggest I want the Thrashers to leave or I’m just trying to sell newspapers or online viewers is off base. I’m an impartial reporter trying to work a story that I think is a major importance. I trust you do to.

Thanks for listening.

Crommers

May 11th, 2011
9:45 am

Look, I like you guys in Atlanta. (unlike Phoenix) but you do have to realize Winnipeg is very interested in any topic of NHL relocation and this will remain the case until we get a team.
I sincerely wish you guys the best of luck (unlike Phoenix) in keeping your team. But until that team is sold, we’re sitting here with deep pockets and a deep hockey fanbase. But you all have to understand that this is equally as excruciating for Winnipeg as well. We all know what your going through, trust me. Thats why there would have been some justice in the Phoenix debacle. Truth be told, I am far more interested in Buf, Ladd, Little, Kane, Enstrom, Pavelec, etc… you guys have a great team. Someone commented earlier on the 1 out of 11 seasons with success, Winnipeg can handle this. We just enjoy watching the best in the world and having that chance to hoist the cup. It means a lot to us. of course winning is always preferred. I hope it can mean more to most of Atlanta and you guys can thrive. Personally, im just so tired of this soap opera. Good luck you guys.

This Guy Right Here

May 11th, 2011
9:52 am

Crommers, Winnipeg had playoff contenders in the past, and couldn’t break 90% capacity in a 15,000 seat arena. And during pre-season, the MTS Centre hosted the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks (with native Winnipegger Toews) and the Lightning to a non-sell out crowd (less than 15,000). If Winnipeg is so NHL-starved, as the internet trolls claim, then I would’ve expected standing room only seats and 100%+ capacity during that game. The fact is Winnipeg is too small of a market to sustain a professional sports franchise long-term.

AtlFlamesFan

May 11th, 2011
9:53 am

So you wanted to be a journalist?! Now if you were reporting from Afghanistan, you’d have real bullets flying by your head, rather than the verbal ones being sent your way.

J(Z)

May 11th, 2011
9:55 am

Some of you guys are wanting C-Viv to just tell us what we want to hear. I don’t think that’s realistic.

I’m still optimistic (for some reason) that we’re keeping the Thrashers in town. Bettman has gone through hoops to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix for years now and he hasn’t even had a chance to get started here in ATL. Phoenix has a winning team, makes the playoffs frequently and still has attendance issues. ATL will support a winning, even a decent team. We just haven’t gotten the chance because of the Spiritless owners we’re currently stuck with. I really don’t think Bettman will just ignore Atlanta. Fingers are crossed, but I’m optimistic on this one.

jimcee

May 11th, 2011
9:56 am

A season ticket blitz should be organized immediately with the help of local media (newspapers,radio,TV) as well as businesses with headquarters in Metro Atlanta.Sacramento (NBA’s Kings) and Glendale/Phoenix have recently succeeded in keeping their teams for at least one more season.Why can’t Atlanta? Where is the mayor on this and why no interviews with the mayor and city council?!!!!

Bernard Shakey

May 11th, 2011
10:01 am

@This guy… yeah, 14,200 for that EXHIBITION game at NHL PRICES! Dude, it was an exhibition game with numbers far beyond several struggling teams during REGULAR NHL games… That exhibition game brought in more money than any of your 2 for 1 or 9.99 nights. Watch how quickly NHL moves ATL. NO way they are going to go through this again next year with BOTH ATL and PHX needing an owner. From the cupcake summit in PHX to the Balkan in ATL LOL, yeah, way to NHL seriously. They’re done.

mcrin

May 11th, 2011
10:01 am

Crommers, I’d love to see an EXPANSION team in Winnipeg, great for Winnipeg, great for the game.

I’d also love to see the ASG be the owner and Don Waddell the GM of the new Winnipeg expansion team and let you have a taste of what we experienced here.

This Guy Right Here

May 11th, 2011
10:03 am

Bernard Shakey, you guys love to make excuses for not being able to sell out. Sorry, but the NHL doesn’t want your city.

Bernard Shakey

May 11th, 2011
10:03 am

@jimcee… season tic blitz? Like your save the Thrashers really with reported 25 people! Not happening.

Chris Vivlamore

May 11th, 2011
10:05 am

AtlFlamesFan: I did choose this profession. You are right. A little less dangerous here than in other parts of the world.

Bernard Shakey

May 11th, 2011
10:08 am

@this guy… LOL, yeah, the NHL doesn’t want a BILLIONAIRE owner in their group LOL.. what’s your exscuse with the dress like a seat night at every ATL game and arresting your mascot…lame. oh wait, bad ownership, right? Couldn’t be simply that people in GEORGIA don’t take to hockey.

Alan R.

May 11th, 2011
10:13 am

I’ll give you an example, Chris:

The Atlanta Spirit has been trying to sell the Thrashers in earnest for several years.

Incorrect. They could not sell due to litigation between the current members of the Atlanta Spirit, LLC and estranged member Steve Belkin. There was no clear title to the team, or any other holdings. They could only begin trying to sell the team “in earnest” in December. This information is widely known, yet seldom reported.

What will happen is, national and Canadian news sources will cite this blog posting as fact, and make the same claim as made above. It is incorrect information. A quick perusal of the legal filing the Atlanta Spirit, LLC made against King & Spalding will clearly show my assertion is factual. They could not sell.

Now, what of investors, one might ask? Several reports in the past have indicated that investors were scared away by the ongoing litigation between Snow Belkin and the Seven Morons.

A post by Canada’s Elliotte Friedman yesterday claimed that The Raine Group has been telling prospective buyers of the Thrashers that the arena is better off without a hockey tenant, and they could make more money without the Thrashers. That would be a good story to chase.

I know you know we’re frustrated, Chris, but given the small example I’ve just provided, maybe you can see why we’re frustrated. To those who claim we’re frustrated because we’re not getting what we want to hear, I have one word for you: Bollocks. Don’t sit there and try to discredit us, when we know there is a lot more to the story than is being reported.

One last note: Jeff Schultz informed all of us back in February about the Atlanta Spirit. Those who did not know at the time, quickly found out what a sorry bunch of liars those folks are. Depending on them for factual remarks is unwise, at best.

For folks who want to actually try to save this team, email Gary Bettman. His address can be found on the official Thrashers forums. Make sure everyone you know, and everyone those people know, find out exactly how much we love hockey here. Scream loudly and proudly, and make sure your voices get heard.

Nate

May 11th, 2011
10:14 am

Chris – There’s an old saying that if you don’t having anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. The same should apply to journalists with a twist. If you don’t have anything new to report, don’t report anything at all. All you or Tucker have done is regurgitate the same articles from TSN and Winnipeg Free Press.

Bernard Shakey

May 11th, 2011
10:16 am

The seed of DESIRE TO SELL was there for the Spirit group. Just b/c they couldn’t at that time does not mean they did’nt want to. They have alwasys wanted to sell. Al Strachon reported this December of 2009 “TNSE is putting the finishing touches on the purchase of ATL”… and then the Bankruptcy in PHX happened and stalled the whole process…

Chris Vivlamore

May 11th, 2011
10:21 am

Alan R.: Yes, the Spirit had to wait until they had free and clear ownership before they could sell. That is true. That didn’t occur until the Belkin situation was resolved. However, they’ve had the Raine Group looking for potential buyers – and investors for that matter – for almost three years. That’s why I say they have been trying to sell the team in earnest.

chaz

May 11th, 2011
10:22 am

@ This Guy,

Whats your excuse then for not selling out? Would Atlanta have sold out an exhibition between Chicago and Tampa? Doubt it. Cause they’re not YOUR teams! The exhibition each year is like a slap in the face to any Winnipeg NHL fan. I’ll be signing up for seasons as soon as im able to, but i wont go see the NHL’s patronizing exhibition. I was a Jets fan, still am, and want a home team to cheer for.

Alan R.

May 11th, 2011
10:24 am

However, Chris, it’s a stretch at best. It also doesn’t address the reports that investors – including Dominique Wilkins – were scared off due to the litigation that was in progress.

How would you feel if you invested money, only to find out it went towards court costs?

Chris Vivlamore

May 11th, 2011
10:24 am

Nate: What is not new about the resolution in Phoenix? And how that applies to the Thrashers?

Chris Vivlamore

May 11th, 2011
10:27 am

Alan R.: You are absolutely correct. That was an issue. A big one. That’s why this has moved so fast one the Belkin issue was resolved. Also, I don’t report that the team has been for sale since the Spirit bought the franchises, as stated in their court documents. I understand saying that has more to do with the litigation than the fact – and why Jeff Schultz took them to task.

I feel better by having a dialogue about this. I hope you do to.

Food for thought

May 11th, 2011
10:27 am

Chris

You’re right when you say the ASG is wealthy enough to cover losses.
The reality they produced ac

Alan R.

May 11th, 2011
10:27 am

Lastly, I’m sure I’m not the only one interested in what the Raine Group has to say about this:

4) Interesting: Word is The Raine Group, which is handling the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers for Atlanta Spirit LLC, is telling prospective buyers the team can be moved because having those dates available for other events (ie. concerts) is a better financial option than hockey. Neither a phone call nor a follow-up email were returned by 10 p.m. ET Monday.

http://www.cbc.ca/sports/blogs/elliottefriedman/2011/05/keefe-has-coaching-chops-plus-30-thoughts.html

Chris Vivlamore

May 11th, 2011
10:30 am

Alan R: Also, I have to do my own reporting. I can’t just take that report as fact. I have to follow up on it. I, too, am waiting for return calls.

This Guy Right Here

May 11th, 2011
10:32 am

chaz, the difference is that Thrashers fans don’t claim their entire city is made up of NHL fans that will sell out every game. Of course a pre-season game between Chi and Tampa wouldn’t sell out in Atlanta when we can’t even sell-out our regular season games. Don’t make such a silly comparison.