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Phoenix Coyotes fans cheer at a game in Glendale, Ariz. (Rick Scuteri/Reuters)
Phoenix Coyotes fans cheer at a game in Glendale, Ariz. (Rick Scuteri/Reuters)

David Shoalts

Comic relief in the desert Add to ...

While the Winnipeg big-game hunters swing their economic sights from west to east to a new/old target, the Atlanta Thrashers, the waiting game continues with the Phoenix Coyotes.

The only people willing to speak do not want their names to appear in print, while others seem to have been struck mute. (If NHL history follows its usual course, the silence indicates the Thrashers' move to Winnipeg is down to the short strokes.)

Conversations with several people familiar with the Coyotes shenanigans show hockey's favourite comedy team, Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs and city manager Ed Beasley, are angling for a mulligan on the team's sale in hopes of producing competing bids.

Given the propensity of the mayor and the manager to have things blow up in their faces, at this point it looks like the most likely outcome will be prospective Coyotes buyer Matthew Hulsizer deciding to take up an offer from one of the several other financially ailing NHL teams that came calling when his interest in being an owner became public. That could leave NHL commissioner Gary Bettman looking for yet another pigeon on Dec. 31 - the deadline for Glendale to come up a buyer who will not move the team.

The competing bid, it is hoped, will come from Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. He could probably file stalking charges against Glendale, considering how many times he has been begged to buy the Coyotes. Those on the scene are convinced Beasley went back to the well one more time, probably through his buddy, John Kaites, who is Reinsdorf's factotum.

Even if Reinsdorf takes another of his half-hearted looks, he will want the same kind of deal as Hulsizer, one with a huge whack of taxpayers' cash. That means there still must be a bond sale to raise that cash despite the opposition of conservative watchdog group, the Goldwater Institute.

Which is where the NHL comes in. Insiders say the league wants to take the purchase agreement, the Jobing.com Arena lease and the terms of the municipal bond sale, drop it in the lap of a judge and ask for a ruling. If the judge says the deal is legal, Goldwater would be told to go pound salt and the bonds go to market. Then, either Hulsizer or Reinsdorf would buy the Coyotes for $170-million (U.S.).

The trouble is, a judge's job is to issue rulings on actual lawsuits or other court actions, not make declarations on hypothetical situations. So the NHL plan is a non-starter, for now.

Hulsizer is said to be less-than pleased Glendale is courting Reinsdorf again. It is also a safe bet both he and the NHL are heartily sick and tired of dealing with the Glendale gang.

Hulsizer is still officially in the hunt but he has no interest in changing his offer substantially or starting over in some sort of bidding contest with Reinsdorf. (By the way, the departure of the Ice Edge group last week means little to Hulsizer's bid since the Canadian and American businessmen were only in for 5 per cent of the package.)

If the city persists in courting Reinsdorf, Hulsizer will walk, but just when is up in the air. He is hanging on for now because if his agreement can fly, it is a sweetheart deal for him.

At this point, Hulsizer is looking at all of his options, including the chances of staying with the Glendale deal. There is a long list of other NHL teams looking for investors but that has not been studied. Yet.

The longer Glendale tries to play footsie with Reinsdorf, the shorter Hulsizer's patience gets.

In the meantime, the Winnipeg guys are picking out china patterns and figuring out where to park their Manitoba Moose minor-league team.

 

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