In a move that will likely keep the Phoenix Coyotes operating in Arizona for at least another year, Glendale city council will on Tuesday discuss a resolution that would extend the city's management agreement with the league for the 2011-12 NHL season.
According to city councilor H. Philip Lieberman, the proposal under discussion would authorize the city to secure financial mechanisms that are "reasonably necessary to satisfy the NHL's requirements to keep the team where it for another season."
In effect, the resolution, if passed, would buy the league and the city more time to find "a qualified ownership group that will be committed to retaining the team in Glendale."
Earlier this week, Glendale paid the NHL $25-million to help cover the $36.6-million in losses sustained by the Coyotes in the 2010-11 season. Lieberman said a similar financial aid package, capped at $25-million, would be made available to the league for next year, if the measure passes.
"In my mind, it's an excellent deal," said Lieberman, who believes the measure will pass easily, either unanimously or with perhaps a single nay vote.
Just what that means for prospective Coyotes' owner Matt Hulsizer is unclear at the moment. In a short, unsourced blog item Friday, Forbes magazine reported that Hulsizer was losing interest in the Coyotes' purchase because of its complexity and might turn his attention instead to making a bid for the St. Louis Blues, another in a long list of NHL teams currently on the market. It was a report that Hulsizer's representatives denied.
"We remain committed to getting a deal done in Phoenix," said Brad Goldberg, vice-chairman of Arizona Hockey Holdings, in a telephone interview.
However, Lieberman noted that "we do not have a signed deal with Hulsizer -and there is some discussion as to whether we will ever get one or not get one. I don't personally want to give him $110-million.
"In my mind, this (proposal) will give us a year to find somebody else who may be willing to buy it and come up with much more money. Real money - instead of city money."
In an e-mail message, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly was non-committal about the details of proposal, but acknowledged: "I anticipate Tuesday's City Council meeting will be significant."
All in all, it was another crazy day in the mind-numbing, never-ending, tug-of-war for control of the Coyotes.
For weeks now, or ever since opposition from the taxpayer watchdog group, the Goldwater Institute, stopped the NHL's original deal to sell the team to Hulsizer, the league has worked feverishly behind the scenes to rework the agreement in order to keep the team operating in Phoenix.
The authorization to extend the NHL/arena management agreement is the last of 10 items on the Tuesday's council agenda. According to the city's website, the strategic goal in making the funds available to the league again is to maintain "quality economic development in the city's entertainment district."
The fear, among Glendale politicians, is that if the Coyotes leave, the Jobing.com arena would become a white elephant and negatively affect the restaurant and hotel district that has grown up around the building and the neighboring Arizona Cardinals football stadium.
Lieberman theorized if the NHL did a better job of running the building apart from just the hockey team, the losses could be mitigated.
"There the ones that rent the space for concerts, shows and what have you," said Lieberman. "They did not do an exceptional job of that last year.
"The other thing about the audience backing, instead of 12,200 in attendance, let's get the number up to 15,000. Three thousand more paid for 41 nights a year, that's a lot more money."
"I'm not against the Coyotes," concluded Lieberman. "I'm just against the city financing his purchase. I don't approve of that."