As Phoenix Coyotes Saga Continues, Hartford is Silent

By Dan Canavan

Will the Bankruptcy Court Accept a Lower Offer to Keep the Coyotes in AZ?

A week ago Friday, Jerry Reinsdorf filed an offer to buy the Phoenix Coyotes for $148 million and keep the franchise in Glendale.  The Reinsdorf group appears to be the only serious bidder to have appeared in anticipation of the August 5th bankruptcy auction.

One of the most intriguing issues surrounding the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy is the possibility that the Bankruptcy Court would pass over Jim Balsillie’s bid in an attempt to find an owner willing to keep the franchise in Arizona.  At approximately, $64 million less than Balsillie’s offer to purchase the team and relocate to Canada, it remains to be scene if the Reinsdorf group will win the favor of Bankruptcy Court. 

The Coyotes’ creditors’ claims have been reported to top $127.8 million.  Since the Judge Baum did not rule in Balsilles’ favor on June 15th, the court has already indicated that it the highest bidder will not necessarily be the winner.  Judge Baum has the difficult task of weighing the competing interests of the club’s creditors.  Some creditors, such as the City of Glendale, will likely never recoup its losses if the team relocates out of the desert.  Glendale’s stands to lose millions more in future economic damages if the Coyotes skip town.  Other creditors, will fare much better if the team is sold to the highest bidder.  

Can the Coyotes Succeed in AZ?

To even suggest that the Coyotes can realistically stay in Arizona, the Reinsdorf group will be required to renegotiate its lease for Arena with the City of Glendale, as well as Aramark, the arena concession vendor, and Fox Sports Arizona, the Coyotes’ local cable broadcaster.   As part of the inevitable renegotiation of their cable contract, the Coyotes should seek to add games to their cable lineup.  Although entering its 13thyear as the “television home of the Phoenix Coyotes,” FS Arizona still only broadcast 40 games - or ½ of the Coyotes schedule - and only 20 games in hi-definition, which is substandard compared to other markets.  Although the NHL is also a creditor in the bankruptcy proceedings, look for a significant portion of the club’s debt to be forgiven in exchange for a promise by the winning bidder to stay in Phoenix.

Despite  the fact that the NHL has emphasized its comittment to professional hockey in Phoenix , there is considerable evidence that the NHL will not succeed in Arizona.  The NHL has tacitly admitted this fact, by agreeing to a two-tiered auction.  The general consensus is that the NHL has no interest in dealing with Balsillie as an owner.

Where is Hartford and the Bring Back the Whalers Movement?

If not Arizona, what other locations are in play for a NHL team?  Despite some strong local sentiment, Hartford does not appear to be a player.  There is no indication, at least publically, that Hartford is on the NHL’s radar as a potential relocation/ expansion city or vice versa.  Although a Hartford contingent made a well-publicized trip to NHL headquarters in January 2009, they have been silent throughout the collapse of the Coyotes.  Perhaps the ill-timed arrest of Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez stifled the return of the Whalers, at least for now.

Other cities that might be in play include Kansas City, Las Vegas, Winnipeg, and Hamilton.

dan_canavan1Dan Canavan, Connecticut Sports Law’s resident hockey expert, is an attorney at Updike, Kelly & Spellacy in Hartford, Connecticut.  He has appeared as an on-air guest with regard to the NHL and the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy proceedings on CBC Radio’s World Report.  His analysis and commentary have also been published in the Sports Litigation Alert , a leading sports industry publication which is circulated throughout the United States.  Dan can be contacted at [email protected] or 860-548-2672


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  1. […] MSN Money takes an interesting look at America’s Most At Risk Sports Teams.  The most surprising entities on the list?  NASCAR and the Detroit Tigers.  The least surprising?  The Phoenix Coyotes, whose troubles have been documented in great depth by Connecticut Sports Law’s hockey expert Dan Canavan. […]

  2. […] As Phoenix Coyotes Saga Continues, Hartford is Silent […]

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