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Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of the Phoenix Coyotes is introduced before the NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings at Jobing.com Arena on March 5, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Red Wings 5-4 in an overtime shoot out. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) (Christian Petersen/2011 Getty Images)
Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of the Phoenix Coyotes is introduced before the NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings at Jobing.com Arena on March 5, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Red Wings 5-4 in an overtime shoot out. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) (Christian Petersen/2011 Getty Images)

Signing off from Glendale Add to ...

Glendale, Ariz-- As someone who once cheered for the Montreal Expos, covered the rise and quick demise of the CFL's Ottawa Renegades, and lives in a city that was robbed of the NBA Grizzlies, there is plenty of sympathy here for Phoenix Coyotes fans.

These can't be easy times. The doomsday clock is ticking, and it's becoming clear where this is headed. It's a powerless feeling, and the rage builds from within.

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Been there, done that, hope to never experience it again. And wouldn't wish it on anyone.

The loss of a professional sports franchise is traumatic for a community, even if the trauma resides only in the diehards' corner. That was the case with the teams mentioned above, and if not for the broader financial implications, it would also be the case should the Coyotes bolt Phoenix and return to Winnipeg.

There was a heavy atmosphere at the Jobing.com Arena Tuesday as employees digested the latest developments, and the veiled relocation warning from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

One man was watching television in the media room when a report about an 11th-hour deal to save the team was debunked. He immediately slapped the palm of his hand against his thigh in disgust. His livelihood is at stake. That much was clear.

And as someone who spent the last few days touring around Glendale, there's more sympathy here for the taxpayers of this suburban community. Because whichever way the Coyotes saga ends, these poor people are going to take a bath.

In conversations with two Phoenix-area reporters this week, both argued that Glendale citizens are about to get the financial socking they deserve. They were asleep at the wheel when their elected representatives went about the huge gamble of banking the community's future on professional sports, and opponents to building a $180-million arena were outnumbered by Coyotes supporters every time the issue went before council.

But these are also people who were amongst the hardest hit by the global recession, and the signs of that are still present, especially on the 10-minute drive from the rink to city hall.

Past the barren fields and empty commercial lots, past the unoccupied developments and boarded-up houses, past the trailer parks and the pasture where 40 goats were grazing (kid you not), lies a pretty little downtown with charming little antique stores and gift shops. It's beautiful and clean, and you can bet that some lucky citizens are still living their version of the American dream not far from the town square, where Mayor Elaine Scruggs and her councillors sealed this city's fate.

But also know that Glendale sits in Maricopa County, one of the most conservative and Republican counties in a conservative and Republican state.

This is the state that took six years to observe the Martin Luther King holiday, even while others jurisdictions with despicable racial histories were on board. This is the state where, if you look Hispanic, authorities can demand to see your immigration papers on the spot thanks to a controversial new law that amounts to witch-hunting for illegal aliens.

And this is the state that gave rise to the Goldwater Institute, a group of conservative zealots who make Bettman look like a pussycat, and who would have the government fund nothing, lest it interfere with the pursuit of "liberty."

Unlike Glendale's misguided council, Goldwater is unelected and unaccountable. Its financing is murky, and its agenda is far closer to an interest group than a "public watchdog."

Take a look at the photos on the Goldwater website and ask yourself if its staff really represents a cross-section of Arizona? Because through these eyes, there seems to be some colour missing.

There are dozens of ironies that have settled in over the last two years, as the Coyotes melodrama has played out, not the least of which is this one: given the way Maricopa County votes, you can bet there are some Glendale residents (perhaps even Coyotes fans) who are ideological bedfellows with the Goldwater gang.

And yet there is one more irony on the horizon, one that the good people of Winnipeg ought to consider before they go clicking their heels, celebrating the return of their team, and canonizing Goldwater.

Canadians have been hesitant - if not hostile - to government handouts for pro sports franchises, but they believe in funding things such as health care, education, and school-lunch programs. And yet an institution that believes in none of that, and which shares almost nothing in the way of Canadian values, is on the verge of delivering Canada its seventh NHL franchise.

Let's hope that doesn't get lost over the next few weeks and months as the Coyotes story culminates. And let's hope that Friendly Manitoba understands the difference between convenient friends, and big-picture foes.

Follow on Twitter: @mattsekeres

 

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