Remember this word: Expansion
The ownership ordeal in Phoenix has the NHL examining other options down the
CHICAGO, IL -- The end is finally near in Phoenix. Seriously. For
real, this time. Honestly. Fina-freakin-lly!! One way or another, in
the next few days/weeks, we'll know the outcome in Arizona. Either the
Coyotes are staying in Glendale next season and beyond, or they're
moving to Seattle.
Sounds simple enough, right? If only this could've been resolved years
into the abyss].
In the NHL's defense [ducks for cover],
I don't blame them too much for taking this long to find a resolution
to Phoenix's ownership dilemma. Their priority, as it stands for every
current NHL franchise, is to uncover every possible ownership stone
before truly considering alternative options.
In Atlanta, nobody -- seriously, nobody -- was seriously interested in
buying the Thrashers and keeping them in Georgia. As a result, the
Jets were reinvented and the NHL returned to Winnipeg. (And Mr. HRR
hasn't been happier).
Phoenix has been an entirely different situation. There have been a
number of prospective ownership groups interested in purchasing the
Coyotes and keeping them in Glendale. Sure, they didn't all know what
they were getting themselves into, and yes, not all of them actually
had the money they said they did, but hey, that's now a thing of the
This new group, Renaissance Sports and Entertainment -- headed by
Calgary native George Gosbee, who is the head of Alberta-based
investment bank AltaCorp; Ottawa resident Anthony LeBlanc, whose
group, Ice Edge Holdings, tried to purchase the Coyotes a few years
ago; Calgary native and Houston businessman Avik Dey; and New York
businessman Daryl Jones
-- actually has the cash, the partners, and the desire to keep the
team in Arizona.
With an agreement with the NHL already ironed out -- a Letter of
Intent to purchase the franchise, if you will -- RSE has been
negotiating a lease agreement with the City of Glendale, something
that's proven to be a major pain in the League's ass backside.
RSE and the City of Glendale have the base of a lease agreement in
place, which includes the city paying the group an annual lease
management fee and incorporating other revenues streams for RSE to
make up the difference.
The City of Glendale was originally only willing to pay $6 million per
year, and while that's still what has been budgeted, the additional
revenue streams will bridge the almost $9 million gap.
There is still a lot that needs to be done, such as the city council
officially approving the lease agreement -- you know, that old
chestnut -- but the parties appear
confident a deal will be finalized.
Yes, we've heard all that fun stuff before. I tried speaking to a few
Coyotes players about it, and everyone's reaction was the same: "I'll
believe it when I see it."
So will the rest of us.
There are still a few hurdles to jump over before this gets signed off
and becomes real. Sound familiar?
This time, however, the NHL has reached the end of its rope. If this deal
between RSE and the City of Glendale falls through, the Coyotes will
be sent packing for, presumably, Seattle. And if that happens, the NHL
will be forever dead in the desert. (If only they stayed in
But I'm not supposed to be writing about the Coyotes' future in
Phoenix/Glendale. I'm supposed to be writing about the underlining
message in all of this Coyotes ownership hoopla. You know, the thing
we at TFP have been talking about for a while now...
Yes, that's right. We'll be hearing the word "expansion" quite a bit
in the near future, as the NHL looks to grow to 32 teams.
This won't happen over night, but it's coming. And all the talk
surrounding Seattle only emphasizes the inevitable.
As KING 5 News in Seattle reported earlier today, Seattle Mayor Mike
McGinn confirmed he's had talks with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
about the city housing an NHL franchise. Talks heated up roughly two
weeks ago when a representative of Chris Hansen, who has been trying
to build a new arena in Seattle and bring the NBA to town, introduced
McGinn and some city council members to potential investors in an NHL
"Our message to all parties has been the same: We believe we can
support an NHL team as a tenant at KeyArena, and as a potential tenant
of a new arena, subject to all parties reaching agreement on terms,"
McGinn told KING 5.
"As recent news reports indicate, it appears the NHL is taking the new
ownership proposal seriously. But we also know from experience that it
may be some time before an NHL team is located in Seattle, as the home
city for the Phoenix Coyotes is working to keep them. We will keep the
public informed as we learn more about the possibility of the NHL in
It sounds like the NHL is poised to put an NHL franchise in The
Emerald City, at some point. If the Coyotes stay in Arizona -- upon
which they're expected to be rebranded as the Arizona Coyotes -- then
Seattle must wait. But they might not wait too long, and they'll have
Quebec City has been knocking on the NHL's door for some time. They're
also next in line.
Providing the current 30 NHL markets remain intact, when the NHL goes
to 32 teams, Seattle and Quebec City will be their quasi-new markets.
Markham (a suburb of Toronto) has been indirectly vying for an NHL
franchise, and they'll get plenty of consideration down the road -- if
Phoenix moves to Seattle, then they'll move up in line and the NHL
will be more than happy to take the $400 million to $500 million
expansion fee it'll cost that market.
Meanwhile, Houston is kind of on the radar, though Kansas City would
jump ahead of them if there's ever a serious-enough group willing to
own a team in that territory (they've got the building, but no real
ownership group). As for Las Vegas... forgetaboutit. Saskatchewan? No
For the time being, a lot rests on what happens with the Coyotes. The
NHL wants to make sure this franchise is set, one way or another. Once
it is, that's one less team to worry about, and with the Islanders
moving to Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season (problem solved), there's
really only one other NHL franchise currently in a major F***ing mess.
But I won't get into that now -- just know they're being fixed, and
we'll have more on that later this month.
It's unclear when the NHL plans on moving to 32 clubs, but many within
the League believe it could happen within the next three-to-five
years. The new facility in Quebec City will be ready in 2015, so you'd
have to imagine the 2015-16 season would be the target (if the NHL
expands to QC, I doubt they'd house the team in the Colisee for a
year). As for Seattle and Markham/Toronto, those buildings haven't
broke ground yet, and they'll each take two-to-three years to complete.
The 2015-16 campaign seems to be the earliest we'd see even conferences of
16... And if the 30 current clubs remain, and one Eastern team and one
Western team is added, somebody from the East is doing back to
the West. If Phoenix moves to Seattle, and Quebec City and Markham are
added, there's a good chance Markham will end up in the Western
Conference, leaving one Eastern team to head back West. But we
can worry about realignment when the time comes.
Buckle up, Seattle. Get ready, Quebec. It's coming.