Will The Attempted Relocation of The Phoenix Coyotes Help Bring The Whalers Back to Hartford?

phoenix_coyotesBy Dan Canavan

As I touched upon in my article Phoenix Coyotes Seek Bankruptcy Protection, Sale, the NHL Players’ Association is giving up on hockey in the desert.  Paul Kelly, the executive director of the NHLPA, recently told The Hamilton Spectator that “it’s time to pull the plug’ on the NHL in Phoenix.”   Speaking on a Toronto radio station Wednesday, Kelly asked: “How much money must (a franchise) lose before someone says ‘perhaps they ought not to be there?’”

On June 9, we will find out if the Bankruptcy Court agrees.  A hearing is scheduled to determine if the team is portable.  If so, the value of the team, and the expected value of the bids received during the bankruptcy proceedings will increase.  There is no question that the team is inherently more valuable if it can be freely moved out of the desert.  If the Bankruptcy Court determines that the franchise cannot be relocated without the consent of the NHL, the value of the team will be considerably lower. 

While it remains unclear if the Bankruptcy Court has the power to unilaterally rewrite the NHL’s operating and franchisor/franchisee agreements, Jim Balsillie, the prospective buyer of the franchise, is not going away.  This isn’t the first NHL franchise that Balsillie has attempted to purchase and relocate.  It probably won’t be the last. 

Given the economy and the changing landscape of the major league sports industry, many have predicted that the NHL bubble that was built by way of the expansion fees of the 1990s is about to burst.  Multiple teams are rumored to have significant cash flow problems and are under terrible financial distress.

To be certain, Balsillie will have other options and relocation appears inevitable.  If the NHL wants to remain a 30-team league, it should start considering locations and owners that are not currently part of the club, which begs the question: will the NHL need Hamilton, Winnipeg and Hartford to survive without contraction?

dan_canavan1Dan Canavan, Connecticut Sports Law’s resident hockey expert, is an attorney at Updike, Kelly & Spellacy in Hartford, Connecticut and fan of the former Hartford Whalers.  He has appeared as a guest with regard to the current state of the NHL on the Teddy Katz Show on CBC Radio.  Dan can be contacted at dcanavan@uks.com or 860-548-2672.


  1. Jim Sipherson says:

    The likelihood of the Hartford Whalers returning is slim. Even if Hartford builds a new arena, they had attendance problems throughout their history here. I would love to see Howard Baldwin spearhead the return though…he has clout and could get people motivated for a new arena. The worst mistake was Francis..the second mistake was getting rid of Howard Baldwin.


  1. […] Will the Attempted Relocation of the Phoenix Coyotes Halp Bring the Whalers Back to Hartford? […]

  2. […] taking place this afternoon in the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy proceedings.  As set forth in this post, the purpose of the hearing is to determine if the team is portable.  This issue will ultimately […]

  3. […] Will The Attempted Relocation of The Phoenix Coyotes Help Bring The Whalers Back to Hartford? […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: