Is NHL about to desert the Arizona desert?

Since their one and only playoff appearance, the Atlanta Thrashers have finished the last four seasons with point totals of 76, 76, 83 and 80. Because of this, we here in Thrasherville have lamented how our team simply seems to wander aimlessly in the Desert of Mediocrity. But there is one fan base out there…out west…that now find themselves hoping that their team continues to remain in the desert.

No, not the fictitious type that we seem trapped in year in and year out…but the actual desert of Arizona.

Wednesday night the Phoenix Coyotes were swept to the curb in the opening round of the NHL playoffs by the Detroit Red Wings. But if would-be owner Matthew Hulsizer is unable to maneuver around certain roadblocks that hamper his efforts to buy the team, then it’s quite possible the Yotes will be jetting their way back to Winnipeg…the city that the franchise called home until 1996.

The Coyotes and their fans have struggled through this situation for a couple years now. The team filed for bankruptcy in May 2009 and the league then took over the franchise. Since then, commissioner Gary Bettman has held out hope that a resolution could be found to keep the team in the 48th U.S. state.

Last year two proposed deals fell through involving Jerry Reinsdorf and Ice Edge. Then last winter the city of Glendale struck a deal with Hulsizer who would purchase the team from the league and keep them in Arizona.

But the threat of a lawsuit from the Goldwater Institute has held up the bonds sale that is needed to close the deal. The watchdog group objects to the funds going to Hulsizer in the lease agreement, and then repaid through parking fees.

Last month, Hulsizer promised a guarantee of $75 million of the city’s $100 million contribution, but that failed to win the support of the Goldwater Institute.

Recently Bettman told Rogers Sportsnet in Toronto that he is still looking for ways to keep an NHL presence in Arizona, but time is a finite commodity…and the clock is ticking.

“Do we have an infinite amount of time? The answer is obviously not,” the commissioner said. “But we haven’t been holding an announcement waiting to see when the Coyotes are done playing, I can assure you of that.”

To their credit however, Phoenix as been able to put together two straight playoff appearance seasons even while dealing with the pressing off-ice issues… a fact not overlooked by head coach Dave Tippett.

“We have scratched and clawed and I give our group a ton of credit because they dealt with it for two years”.

Regardless, the uncertain future of the team still has had an effect on the players as well as the fans. Coyotes captain Shane Doan…who played in Winnipeg during the Jets final season…admitted that the past two years have been difficult.

“I don’t care what anybody says, it’s a strain when you deal with your family and you deal with people outside of it”, Doan explained. “And if you’re going to lose a series 4-0, it’s a perfect example that we’re answering questions about what’s going to happen next. You don’t even get to think about the year. You have to think about what’s going on next”.

“That’s the part that bugs you”, the 34-year old forward continued. “You’ve only got so many years to play in this league and you want to enjoy them”.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Doan, his teammates, others involved with the Coyotes organization and their fans are facing…an uncertain future. And all they can do now is wait and see if the NHL is wiling to continue to exercise patience and allow the process to play out… or if they decide that after two years, enough is enough.

If the latter attitude prevails, then they could allow the Coyotes to be purchased by those actively seeking to bring NHL hockey back to Manitoba’s capital. If indeed that resolution comes to pass, then the only desert left with an NHL presence will be the Desert of Mediocrity where teams like the Thrashers continue to seemingly wander aimlessly.

91 comments Add your comment

Sage of Bluesland

April 21st, 2011
1:40 pm

Not to fear all: Don Waddell–in this, his third “Five-Year Plan”–has proclaimed us relatively ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers’ progress for our vaunted return back to the playoffs and meaningful games in March. Thus, we’re also likely ahead of the Coyotes, as well.

He thanks the sheep who continue to subsidize the embarrassing incompetence.

(Well, I do too, in a way. The humor derived is worth it all.)

Jeremy H

April 21st, 2011
1:48 pm

And Bill, it’s probably a relatively happy day for Atlanta fans. After all, it might help keep the Thrashers in Atlanta a couple more years – right?

hockeygoon79

April 21st, 2011
1:50 pm

“You’ve only got so many years to play in this league and you want to enjoy them”.

So is Doan admitting that he wouldn’t enjoy his remaining playing days in the NHL if forced to do so in Winnipeg?

kracker

April 21st, 2011
2:07 pm

I think Doan was generally just commenting on the unpleasantness of playing during all the swirling rumors about the team being sold and relocated to Winnepeg, the ownership troubles, etc.

He coud be a Thrasher.

ThrasherTim

April 21st, 2011
2:10 pm

I read Doan’s comments as that he wants to just play hockey without all the on-ice distractions…and his family prefers Phoenix to Winnepeg.

Speaking of off-ice distractions, you can’t tell me that the situation here and the announcement that the ASG have been trying to sell the Thrashers since the lock-out wasn’t a distraction here to our players. Look at Buffalo – as soon as the new owner came in, they went on a run. Us? We ran all right…almost into the draft lottery again.

By the way, we’re heading into Year 2 of Dudley’s 3-year plan. Waddell is now President and doesn’t manage the personnel decisions of the Thrashers…directly at least.

Rawhide

April 21st, 2011
2:11 pm

Jeremy H – I’m sure a lot of people here will see it that way, but really I’ve tried to view the two circumstances as different situations.

For one, the NHL hasn’t yet seen the need to step in a buy the team back from current owners, (although I’m sure many would love to see that happen here). Because of that, we aren’t a financial burdon on other owners.

But let’s not kid ourselves that there are serious issues circling around this team, and it all begins and ends with ownership.

What I think it does do…if indeed the Yotes relocate to Winnipeg…is buy the Thrashers some time to get the team’s ownership situation settled. Bettman loses no love at all for the Spirit Clowns and would love to see the franchise and the league rid of them.

Plus, there’s this little issue regarding Quebec City. They are hell-bent to land a team up there. If the situation drags on and on here I’m sure the relocation rumor mills will again be open for business.

ThrasherTim – The Thrashers were 23-18-8 when that news broke. From that point on, they played to a 11-18-4 record.

Red Light

April 21st, 2011
2:12 pm

So, in the 31 years of the Phoenix/Winnipeg franchise’s NHL existence, the team has won a total of two playoff series against the former Atlanta Flames, in 1985 and 1987.

So, technically, the three cities are inexorably tied at the hip in more ways than one?

kracker

April 21st, 2011
2:15 pm

What do y’all think about the Glavine article? He would be great representing the owner group to the media, players, team mgmt, fans and the league. He’s a good buisnessman, loves the game and would get good pub for being a high-profile athlete, both local and in New York.

If he needs investing partners, he should hook up w/ Smoltz and Matt Ryan… :)

Hockey Biltong

April 21st, 2011
2:18 pm

We are all thinking that we are next, and hopefully, we get new ownership, just as the Coyotes fans are hoping, too.
It has been said repeatedly, how sad it would be to see the NHL leave the ATL. again. Knowing how the ASG submarined the Thrash from the start, it would behoove the next group of owners to be mindfull of repeating such a folly when purchasing both teams.

Horsetoothedjackass

April 21st, 2011
2:21 pm

The City of Glendale and the Goldwater Institute are supposed to have a sit down today with a third party transcribing things for public release. Now whether this means they’re come to some sort of agreement that gets the City of Glendale what they want, who knows? The Goldwater Institute has pretty much frightened off potential bond people with their prior threats of a lawsuit, so even if they call off the dogs, will any of them still want to take part?

I have a feeling that if nothing is settled by June 1st, the NHL will pull the plug on the deal with Hulsizer and move the team to Winnipeg and I would assume that True North Sports & Entertainment would jump in to buy the team from the NHL. I would venture to guess that if the Coyotes do move back to Winnipeg, it will be announced prior to the NHL Draft, probably during the period between the end of the Stanley Cup Finals and the NHL Awards. They would definitely want to have it announced prior to the draft and definitely before July 1, as any uncertainty about where the team is playing next season would definitely deter potential free agents from signing and maybe even the re-signing of some of their own players.

KLS1

April 21st, 2011
2:27 pm

Maybe Kovy will partner with Glavine, he’s got the $…is that a conflict of interest?

kracker

April 21st, 2011
2:31 pm

That is a pretty telling stat, Rawhide, that record before and after the announcement of non-support by the owners. I put it at a winning % of 51.1 before and 35.5 after, counting the OTLs as half-games each.

ATL

April 21st, 2011
2:34 pm

Please keep the thrashers in Atlanta!!!!

kracker

April 21st, 2011
2:37 pm

Thinking back, I seems like the Thrashers had already started playing poorly by the time that article containing those quotes hit the papers and the internet. But it certainly didn’t help the players attitudes to have what they already knew become public knowledge.

Rawhide

April 21st, 2011
2:40 pm

kracker – 14 regulation wins in 49 games prior to the bombshell the Octocluster dropped on Thrasherville…5 in the 33 games after.

Red Light – Well played sir!

Everyone – There’s been a buzz going on lately about Tom Glavine being interested in the Thrashers. He was on 790 The Zone’s ‘Mayhem in the AM’ today and Phil Foley has this really good piece on what was discussed.

Very interesting.

Tom Lysiak

April 21st, 2011
2:48 pm

Definitely not poo-pooing the Glavine possibility at all. But, I was really hoping for a singular, obscenely rich person like Buffalo got. No more Octocluster, no more debating amongst themselves, no more suing each other. Just one actual owner who wants hockey to succeed here. If Tommy comes through, I will still take it though.

World Be Free

April 21st, 2011
2:48 pm

I wish we were as good as mediocre.

World Be Free

April 21st, 2011
2:51 pm

Tom L-gotta remember the Sabres have not had top flight ownership since the Knox Bothers early days. The brothers then lost interest in winning AND became tight on money by the late 70’s-that’s 30 years of that word-”mediocre” ownership. Ther Rigas family is breaking rocks, Golisano saved the day but let the leadership of the team (on ice) walk without getting anything in return.

Alan R.

April 21st, 2011
2:58 pm

kraker – The team started going south when it was revealed that the Septotards bought out Belkin. Remember, the Septotards also had a “meeting” with arena staff about the possibility that the Thrashers wouldn’t be here next year.

World Be Free

April 21st, 2011
2:59 pm

Remember Tom Glavine was drafted in the NHL, 2 spots ahead of the most prolific goal scoring left winger of all time.

kracker

April 21st, 2011
3:03 pm

Tom, an ownershhip group is ok if one person owns over 50% and is making the real decisions. I’m guessing Glavine is not that rich but who knows. He would be fantastic as the face and mouth of a new owners group. He knows and loves the game and is media savvy. Perhaps best of all, Glavine is a former high-profile athlete who would generate good publicity to compliment the buzz about lots of good off-season moves made by a new and ehthusiastic group of owners.

ZAvalanche

April 21st, 2011
3:05 pm

That is an encouraging article about Glavine. Hope it comes to fruition.

Hoof Arted

April 21st, 2011
3:18 pm

As for the Yotes, they’re as good as gone. Sorry for all the good people of Arizona too. Sucks losing a team.

As for Tom Glavine, I find his interest in the Thrashers quite intriguing. If nothing else, we’d have someone within the ownership group who knew a thing or two about dealing with the players union.

That, and brushing someone off the plate with a little chin music. But I don’t know if that would come in handy at all here :grin:

AtlFlamesFan

April 21st, 2011
3:24 pm

I just caught the link about Anson Carter. That would be interesting. He lives in Atlanta????

Alan R.

April 21st, 2011
3:26 pm

Gee… would Bryzgalov be interested in a backup role with the Thrashers? He doesn’t like the idea of Winnipeg. http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Hockey/NHL/Playoffs/Phoenix/2011/04/21/18051576.html

Red Light

April 21st, 2011
3:28 pm

So, after reading Phil Foley’s piece based upon what he heard from Tom Terrific on 790 the Zone this morning, I am left with three questions:

1) if I call up my millionaire friends, tell them the Thrashers are for sale and ask them if they would they be interested in acquiring the team and paying rent to the guys who are selling the team, once the laughter subsides, am I still as far along in my quest to keep hockey here in Atlanta as Glavine is?

2) Antropov asks Glav at his kids’ practice if he wouldn’t mind going public with his intention of helping keep the Thrashers in Atlanta, because not one of the Thrashers want to get stuck in Winnipeg next winter, or whenever. Perhaps by Glavine feigning interest, one of the five tire kickers may actually think it’s time to be more proactive in the acquisition process.

Red Light

April 21st, 2011
3:29 pm

3) Where is “The Balksn”?

ZAvalanche

April 21st, 2011
3:30 pm

AtlFlamesFan, thanks for that info. I would LOVE to see Glavine and Dancin’ Anson as owners.

ZAvalanche

April 21st, 2011
3:32 pm

Alan R. – Bryzgolov is heading to CO……..

Rawhide

April 21st, 2011
3:33 pm

Alan R. – Wow. Winnipeg doesn’t even have their team back yet, but already they seem to suffer from the same problem the Thrashers have for so many years.

Player Retention Deficit Disorder :lol:

JT from Columbus

April 21st, 2011
3:43 pm

What does keep the team here on a “casual basis” mean?

ZAvalanche

April 21st, 2011
3:46 pm

JT, good question and I was wondering the same thing. After a bit of thought I think it means keeping Thrashy here without constant rumors of moving it and thereby just focusing on hockey operations.

Andrew Maxwell

April 21st, 2011
3:46 pm

As someone who knows (and answers to) #thebalkan, I can say that D-Day is coming soon — for better or worse. Thanks for your patience!

JT from Columbus

April 21st, 2011
3:49 pm

ZAv- I hope you are right. I think we’ve had enough “casual” around here. We need some “serious” if you ask me.

ZAvalanche

April 21st, 2011
3:52 pm

Negative Andrew. D-Day was June 6, 1944, and thank you for your help at Juno Beach on that Day of Days. You aren’t going to get our hockey team :) Cheers though

Moe

April 21st, 2011
3:52 pm

Out of the box thinking -> Why don’t they just move the Thrashers to Phoenix and the Coyotes to Atlanta…:)

Hoof Arted

April 21st, 2011
3:59 pm

Moe, lets see. The Coyotes have earned 107 and 99 points over the last two season. The Thrashers have 83 and 80. I don’t think too many people in Thrasherville would be too upset with that ‘trade”.

ZAvalanche

April 21st, 2011
4:00 pm

@Moe – sure would be nice to have a playoff caliber team………..

Andrew Maxwell

April 21st, 2011
4:01 pm

I meant D-Day as in “Decision Day” … and The Balkan is only interested in keeping the Thrashers here.

hockeygoon79

April 21st, 2011
4:04 pm

Hey Moe! I bet Bryzgalov wouldn’t have the same problem coming to Atlanta as he does Winnipeg, eh?

ZAvalanche

April 21st, 2011
4:07 pm

hockeygoon, Bryzgolov would not take a position as a backup. But you don’t have to worry about it, as I said, he is going to CO (crosses fingers)

Moe

April 21st, 2011
4:18 pm

My Predictions for tonight’s games – BOS 3-2 MON in overtime, SJ 3-0 LA, Niemi will get his mojo back, CHI 4-2 VAN, Blackhawks will increase the pressure on the Canucks.

ZAvalanche

April 21st, 2011
4:19 pm

MOe – I agree on every game but your last one. Chi-town is done.

The Real Thrash

April 21st, 2011
4:23 pm

Rearranging deck chairs…

GaVaHokie

April 21st, 2011
4:33 pm

Remember Tom Glavine was drafted in the NHL, 2 spots ahead of the most prolific goal scoring left winger of all time.

WBF… I don’t get it? Who do you mean?

http://www.hockeydraftcentral.com/1984/84rnd4.htm

Having a hard time caring any more

April 21st, 2011
4:41 pm

There are plenty of major league cities that can support the Thrashers, not just Winnepeg

Seattle, Portland, Houston, Milwaukee,are 4 cities who have never had a team and have the fan base to support a team. KC and Quebec C are two who might get a second chance. Even Las Vegas ,Okla City and Charlotte all have had interest in the past for an NHL team.

I would advise these cities re’:Thrashers :Be careful what you ask for, you may get it.

UGASlobberknocker

April 21st, 2011
4:51 pm

Glavine was only 65 selections behind Mario Lemeiux that yr (#1 vs #66).

Im fuzzy on old NHL history but I dont see any star on that 4th round list..who are you talking about WBF?

Tom Lysiak

April 21st, 2011
4:58 pm

WBF – I hear ya. But, all those years of bad ownership have been made whole by the new guy and his commitment to winning and to honoring their past.

kracker – Couldn’t agree more about what Tommy could bring to the table. He would be fantastic in many respects. But, again I guess I was hoping for some big bucks who could/would flush those ASG turds down the drain forever. You know, buy the building, the Thrash and the Hawks (and then treat them like the stepchild). I would like to know that just like the Braves and Falcons, leaving this town is never even in the back of anyone’s mind.

Red Light

April 21st, 2011
5:07 pm

I am sure he meant Luc Robitaille, who was drafted in the 9th round that year. Glavine also was picked prior to Brett Hull.

Tom Lysiak

April 21st, 2011
5:08 pm

RL – Was number two a hypothetical scenario?