Approved lease agreement provides relief for Glendale, Coyote fans


The Phoenix Coyotes could be in the desert for another 20 years after a lease agreement was reached this week. Photo by: M P R / Flickr

BY BRETT MURDOCK, Couchsideshow.com blogger

May 5, 2009 and November 27, 2012. Two separate dates that in the 3 years, 6 months and 23 days in between spawned years of turmoil, uncertainty, cheap shots, internet arguments, and countless other immature, childish and un-endearing incidents.

I’m of course talking about the Phoenix Coyotes and their recent struggles off the ice. The two dates are very closely related. The May 5 date is when then-team owner Jerry Moyes plunged the financially-troubled franchise into bankruptcy and created a maelstrom of everything listed above. Fast forward to the November 27 date and the dust has now appeared to settle after the City of Glendale approved a 20-year lease agreement with prospective, and likely, owner Greg Jamison, hopefully ending years of unpredictability.

Its amazing that it took just over three-and-a-half years for a professional sports team to finally be on the brink (and not yet) sold, but the situation with the Coyotes was not exactly what one would call normal. First off, Arizona, mainly the Phoenix-Metro is not exactly a hockey hotbed due to the desert climate. Secondly, the NHL were caught up in numerous legal battles with Moyes, previous Blackberry CEO Jim Balsillie (who wanted to move the team to Canada way back in 2009), the hacks at the Goldwater Institute (a watchdog group with an interest to protect taxpayers, but yet weren’t elected…). Third, potential deals with sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf (owner of Chicago’s Bulls and White Sox), the Ice Edge Holdings group (still a laughingstock on numerous message boards) and Matthew Hulsizer (who actually had an agreement ready to go, but was summarily blocked by the aforementioned Institute) collapsed faster than the WWE SmackDown ring when Brock Lesnar superplexed Big Show in 2002 (see below).

Yet, after all the court battles and constant pressure from hockey fans, executives and media like to cut loose this franchise, the NHL was still not willing to give up. Enter Jamison, a former front office executive with the San Jose Sharks. Jamison’s involvement with this situation has lasted around 17 months and finally culminated in Tuesday night’s council vote in Glendale (my hometown, by the way). The measure passed with a 4-2 vote, as expected. Still, even with a predictable vote, the finality of it comes as a relief to anybody who has followed this team and situation for the past years and has endured every taunt, insult and other degradation thrown his or her way.

On the ice, the Desert Dogs have been a force, qualifying for three straight postseasons despite this ordeal, even winning the Pacific Division last year and having a strong playoff run that ended in a Game 5 loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals. That has been an escape for fans to forget about the financial issues and something that the city and area can lean on for inspiration.

But, the sobering reality of it all was that once those moments came to an end, there was the bitter truth that this is a cash-strapped, financially-tangled team and that won’t change until Jamison signs on the dotted line and takes full control of the team along with his investment group. Then and only then will this saga be completely over.

Fans of this team are a tough crowd, forming a bond with a team that on the ice is defined not by flash and awe, but with its hardnosed, hardworking style of play. They aren’t as entertaining as the Rangers, Kings, or Blackhawks. And Glendale isn’t exactly New York, Los Angeles or Chicago in terms of glitz, glamour or notoriety. But, as the narrative goes, fans love the underdog and no team in professional sports has been a bigger underdog than the Coyotes these past few years and fans have identified themselves with that personality. They have thrived in this environment and have been fervently supportive of a team they feel like is theirs.

But for now, on a mild night in a city hall where large sums of cash in projections and figures were being thrown around like Monopoly money as well as insults, arguments and passionate statements being made on both sides, the dirty work was done, just like a fore checker going into the corner for the puck. There will of course be detractors and disbelievers, like the ones that pleaded their case to the city council, people who popped up on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, and the two council members who disapproved of the lease. But, the bottom line is that this ordeal is nearly done and hopefully we can get back to hockey business in the desert…you know, once Gary Bettman stops being an ass, but that’s another story.

Was the stress, uncertainty and unknown worth it? Only time will tell. Hopefully its not another 3 years, 6 months, and 23 days.

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