03 September 2009
September 10th the Phoenix Coyotes summer bidding war will finally come to an end when the sales auction takes place and the team is given to its new owner.
Can we just give a team to Balsillie already? The NHL obviously is against him owning a team, and that's why the Penguins are still in Pittsburgh and the Predators are still in Nashville. But what's the problem, can't we just get this over with?
Phoenix has accomplished next to nothing since moving to the desert, and they aren't likely to break out with a deep playoff run any time soon. The Coyotes were 28th in attendance last year, and even if the team winds up staying in Glendale, does anyone really think their attendance will get better after this wild summer?
Five of the six Canadian based franchises finished in the top eight in attendance last year, so it's quite obvious that Canadians love their hockey and would be willing to support another team. Granted, you can point to the Phoenix franchise itself, which once resided in Winnepeg before moving south, out of Canada, as a failed Canadian market. But Hamilton fans likely would show up in great numbers, supporting and keeping a team in their city.
I think it is quite plainly conflict of interest for a league to own one of its own operating teams. Granted, Gary Bettman wouldn't become GM of the team and make roster decisions, but it hardly seems fair, or logical, for a league to own its own club.
To the credit of the NHL, they have said they'd only own it a year while searching for a capable owner who would keep the team in Phoenix. However, Balsillie and his legal group are trying to claim that the NHL will look for new owners that may relocate the team to a city the NHL is more interested in, perhaps Kansas City or Las Vegas; non-Canadian markets.
With the start of the preseason only a few weeks away, and the regular season less than a month away, it seems unlikely that the Coyotes would start the season in any city outside of Glendale. Balsillie did say he wouldn't object to moving the franchise in the middle of the season, however, that's absurd, and something more likely to be seen in a AAA league.
The few diehard fans that are in Phoenix should be allowed to have one last full season to enjoy, but the logical move is then for the team to be moved to a better market, like Hamilton. More fans, more tickets sold, more revenues, you get the picture. I get that coming out of the lockout the league said they were dedicated to their 30 markets, and that five years later a team relocates, but common sense has to come in to play at some point.
Let Balsillie have the team, let them move. I know there's going to be a fight between the league and the Toronto Maple Leafs if Balsillie is allowed to move the team to Hamilton, but that's another road to cross when the time comes.
Let the Coyotes play in Phoenix this year, then in the 2010 offseason, relocate them to Hamilton. Divisonal solution? Keep Hamilton in the West, but take them out of the Pacific and put them in the Northwest, so they're with the other three Canadian teams. Then move the Avalanche from the Northwest to the Pacific, and there you go.
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