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A fan of the Phoenix Coyotes holds up a sign against the Goldwater Institute during the NHL game against the Calgary Flames at Jobing.com Arena on March 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) (Christian Petersen/2011 Getty Images)
A fan of the Phoenix Coyotes holds up a sign against the Goldwater Institute during the NHL game against the Calgary Flames at Jobing.com Arena on March 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) (Christian Petersen/2011 Getty Images)

Globe On Hockey

NHL keeps Winnipeg waiting Add to ...

Things seem to be quiet again down Phoenix way, as the City of Glendale plays a high-stakes game of chicken with the Goldwater Institute over the sale of the municipal bonds that are to back Matthew Hulsizer's purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes.

All parties say time is growing short for the city to complete the bond sale and then Hulsizer to complete the purchase from the NHL. The key party here is the NHL, which owns the team and is the most likely to run out of patience first.

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While Hulsizer could decide to pull out at any time, chances are he will hang in there because this is such a good deal for him. Where else could you get someone to pay you $197-million (all currency U.S.) to buy a hockey team for $170-million?

Glendale is not going to pack up first because it seems determined to throw good money after bad to try and fix the original mistake, which was to go $180-million into debt to build an arena in a bad location.

So just when will the NHL say enough is enough and make the call to the people in Winnipeg who have their cheque book open? Try the day after the Coyotes are eliminated from the NHL playoffs.

It is pretty clear, given the paltry attendance at Coyotes games over the years, that if NHL commissioner Gary Bettman decides in the next week the bond sale is never going to happen and announces the team is headed to Winnipeg, the Coyotes attendance will crater. The team is averaging an announced crowd of 11,664 fans per game right now, which is 29th among the NHL's 30 teams.

Announcing a move would see that number fall quickly. As the team owner, even though the Glendale taxpayers are covering the first $25-million in this season's losses (which are said to be headed toward $40-million), it would not be good business for the NHL to do anything to hurt ticket sales.

So even though the NHL may have already decided this turkey is not going to fly, don't expect an admission until no more tickets have to be sold.

Oh, by the way, about that $25-million, which the Glendale politicians took out of an account earmarked for expenses in keeping their city liveable. Hulsizer promised to hand that over to the city once he buys the team, so no sale means the NHL is entitled to keep it.

And good luck to the city if it tries to get it back from the NHL. So goodbye Coyotes and goodbye another $25-million for good measure.

Follow on Twitter: @dshoalts

 

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