Today, the Coyotes bankruptcy proceedings took an interesting and unexpected turn; The Jerry Reinsdorf group has (for now) pulled out of their bid to buy the team. The NHL has announced they will bid on the franchise with the intention of taking control and then reselling the team to a committed local buyer.
Coming one day after a closed door meeting of the Glendale City Council, one can assume that something other than lunch did not sit well. The Reinsdorf's, were clearly trying to play hardball with the Glendale City Council, seeking major lease concessions. They could not make a deal.
For now, the Reinsdorf-Kaites-Tavares-Reinsdorf Jr. group is on the sidelines. Of course, stay tuned. That may change in coming weeks.
The NHL is a stable, secure and responsible bidder. The league has extensive financial resources and is also united in its' efforts to preserve the league constitution and keep a certain Mr. James Balsillie out of their ranks. On the surface, this is a good thing for Phoenix hockey fans.
And if the NHL is to buy the team, they could then proceed in an orderly manner to sell it to an owner of their choosing.
But there is a troubling undercurrent here.
The NHL really had no intention of bidding but they weren't about to let Balsillie be the only bidder to show up. Difficult times call for drastic action.
Starting way back in May, the Reinsdorf group seemed to be the best chance for hockey in Phoenix. They made it clear that they had invested significant time and money negotiating with creditors, developing a business plan and working to build an organization that could make hockey a success in the desert. Now, for at least the moment, they have decided to call off the jam.
Oh and they made it clear on the way out the door that the reason for their withdrawal. The Reinsdorf's complained of an "unwilling seller" and "an organized publicity effort designed to provide negative and misleading information to interested parties." Ouch. This will no doubt add much fuel to the NHL's claim that Moyes should be removed from the bankruptcy process. It may prove to be a very compelling argument.
While NHL ownership would certainly represent stability, at least in the short term, it also represents prolonged uncertainty about who is going to own the team and how will it be operated for the long haul.
Meanwhile our potential new best friends at Ice Edge quietly filed a bid for the team with the bankruptcy court. Until now, they have seemed to be more of a curiosity than leading men. Now with the Reinsdorf group pulling out, they might, might just end up with the team. We'll be watching with interest to see how this somewhat oddball bid plays out. And over the next few days, we expect to learn more about their business plan.
So for now, the uncertainty drags on. And no matter who ends up with the team, much damage has been done. Numerous people in the know have told me that ticket sales are "awful". One would assume sponsorship sales are not much better. And while Don Maloney has done his best to cobble together a representative team, there are still more questions than answers on the roster.
We've had high hopes that new owners would make a blazing entrance and give the franchise a shot of juice to excite the market. A star player, a great marketing campaign or some major organization changes are urgently needed to refocus hockey fans on the game. Now it appears that none of the cures that new vibrant ownership would bring will be in place at the start of this season.
And the band plays on.