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At long last, the Coyotes are saved

May 8, 2012

While no official deal has been reached, it would appear that Greg Jamison will spearhead a group that has been endorsed by the league to purchase and save the Coyotes.

Jamison is the former CEO of the San Jose Sharks who is famous for making them profitable. Due, in part, to Jamison’s leadership, the Sharks are now a very stable club – despite being located in a non-traditional market. With Jamison at the helm, the league (and Coyotes), Glendale and Jamison are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle twice.

There has not been an official deal reached, just an announcement that an agreement has been reached to dot the Is and cross the Ts in this deal. There is still the looming specter of the Goldwater Institute, the watchdog group that destroyed the last bid for the team. That isn’t to say they were out of line. There is no doubt that they will comb through the final agreement and there is even a chance that they will attempt to put this deal to an end.

What could derail the Jamison deal is the portion of the agreement that will see the new figurehead (if you will) run Jobing.com Arena. If Goldwater determines the agreement to violate whatever silly law they referenced last year, things could get complicated. With no true knowledge of what Goldwater gets all knotted up about, I can’t truly say if this deal will catch any snags. After all, Gary Bettman even noted that they expect to structure the deal properly as to not raise any red flags.

Based on my knowledge of the history of this scenario, I do think that the city paying one of the new owners may upset a group that stopped a previous sale based on the city paying the owner to buy the team. Of course that is a wildly broad way of putting it, but the former deal saw Glendale selling bonds as a way to supplement the sale. Jamison’s group surely has found a way around such an issue, but I do wonder if Goldwater will take them to task over the owner being paid by the city.

Ultimately, I see this deal going through and the Coyotes finally getting some solid ownership. The team has been in Phoenix for 15 years and has yet to make money. That is a pretty terrifying piece of information. I suppose if there was anyone to turn the team around, it would be Jamison. Acting as the ringleader, he will be the one to guide the spending of the investment group he compiled. His experience with the Sharks speaks for itself and bodes well for the Coyotes franchise.

Now the onus lies with the fans of the team. With an arena built so far from downtown Phoenix, there is reason to expect low attendance. Add in what has been a very average team up until the last few years and you have a recipe for disaster. What worries me is the hockey fans in Phoenix going away once the regular season begins once again. For two-straight years, the team made the playoffs (only to bow out in the first round) and there was little increase in attendance the next year. I’m hopeful that this deep run will create some new fans who will come back for 2012-13, but the historical data doesn’t back up such a dream.

If the Coyotes are ever going to survive in the desert, it will be their fans that do the saving. No matter who owns the team will matter little. If there is no way to increase fan support, the money will never arrive. This deep playoff run will help at the box office, but it is sustained success there that is most important for this team to remain in Phoenix.

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