The local politicians did not rush into the arms of their latest dance partners with the Phoenix Coyotes this week, but they did not reject them either, so the other cities wooing the NHL team remain hopeful.
One councillor for the suburban City of Glendale registered her opposition, but others sounded cautiously optimistic about the arena-lease proposal from Renaissance Sports and Entertainment, headed by Canadian businessmen George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc.
Their deal with the NHL to buy the Coyotes hinges on an arena lease, but it does look like the deal will not be ready in time for a council vote at its next public meeting on June 25.
So Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett, who is sort of negotiating a new contract with general manager Don Maloney but does not want to commit until he knows the fate of the team, remains in limbo – along with Quebec City, Seattle, Kansas City and Las Vegas.
Time, though, is growing short.
Glendale needs to finalize its 2013-14 budget by July 1, and the NHL needs to get its 2013-14 schedule out around the same time. Neither has issued a deadline but realistically cannot let things drag out much past the first week in July.
If the Coyotes need to be moved quickly, then Seattle and Quebec City are the only possible locations.
Quebec is in the best shape to play host to an NHL team but all indications are commissioner Gary Bettman's preferred choice is Seattle. Las Vegas and perhaps Kansas City will get in the game, at least as far as the Coyotes are concerned, only if the team has to move in another four or five years, which is also a possibility.
Quebec City has an 18,482-seat arena under construction and it has an ownership candidate in Pierre Karl Péladeau. He recently freed up some time by stepping down as president and chief executive officer of Quebecor Inc. – which just happens to own the naming rights to the new arena scheduled to be ready in 2015.
But if the Coyotes need a home this summer, Quebec City council has already approved the sinking of several million dollars into sprucing up Colisée Pepsi, the former home of the Quebec Nordiques.
However, word among NHL governors is that while Quebec can count on getting back into the league, the preferred route is via expansion. The idea is Péladeau can be plucked for a far-more lucrative expansion fee of something like $400-million. However, some believe Péladeau is not keen on paying that kind of money for a team.
Seattle also has an ownership group in place in the form of Connecticut businessmen Ray Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza. They are said to have agreed to pay $220-million (U.S.) for the Coyotes if the Renaissance deal falls apart. There is also a deal with the city to play at KeyArena until a new arena is built.
Chris Hansen, a Seattle native who runs an investment fund in San Francisco, wants an NHL partner for the arena he plans to build in Seattle. There is one snag, but it's a small one: Hansen's deal with Seattle calls for him to have an NBA franchise in hand before the arena construction starts. But all parties would be agreeable to a rewrite if the NHL comes calling.
Kansas City, of course, has had a (relatively) new arena sitting vacant (Sprint Center) and ready for years. But there are doubts about its suitability as a hockey market.
Plans to build a 20,000-seat arena on the Las Vegas strip were announced this week by casino giant MGM Resorts International and Philip Anschutz's company, AEG.
Anschutz, who owns the Los Angeles Kings, wields much influence in the NHL, which puts Sin City back on the league's radar. (Television/film producer Jerry Bruckheimer talked to the NHL for years about owning a team in Las Vegas but his ardour waned when he got wind of the kind of expansion fee the league wanted.)
It seems to be boom times for arena builders. The Detroit Red Wings and the City of Detroit announced Wednesday they plan to build a new $650-million playpen downtown.
If your agent were a betting man, he would put a dollar on the chances of Glendale cutting a deal with Gosbee and LeBlanc. Then, he would parlay that into a bet on the Coyotes lasting just another few years before they are moved to Seattle or Las Vegas – with the loser, plus Quebec City, getting expansion franchises to bring the NHL to 32 teams.