After two-years worth of speculation, the city of Winnipeg once again has an NHL franchise. Too most people’s surprise though it was the Atlanta Thrashers and not the Phoenix Coyotes who packed up the moving vans and headed to the Great White North.
The question many have wondered is why the NHL has fought so hard to keep the Phoenix market but let Atlanta leave with what seemed to be little objection at all.
On Wednesday NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addressed those questions with CNBC’s Darren Rovell and said it simply came down to each city’s willingness to keep their franchise.
“We could of moved Phoenix very easily except the city of Glendale stepped up and said we are going to make an arrangement with you to keep the club here for another year,” the commissioner explained. ” The city of Glendale is actually financing the losses of the club, that is something that wasn’t present in Atlanta, and everybody is optimistic that the team will get sold in Phoenix so the Coyotes can stay in Arizona.”
If you read between the lines — or really just the lines — Bettman seems to make it clear that without Glendale offering to pay $25 million the last two seasons to cover the team’s operating debts we’d be talking about how the Coyotes are getting ready to play their first season back in Winnipeg.
The league may be optimistic about finding a buyer to keep the Coyotes in the Valley, but that is far from a guarantee. Thanks to the Goldwater Institute threatening to sue over the constitutionality of an agreement between Glendale and Chicago businessman Mathew Hulsizer, there is no clear cut favorite to become the team’s new owner.
The Coyotes may not be moving to Winnipeg but that doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods. Thanks to the Thrashers, they’ve just dodged a bullet for the time being.