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Phoenix Coyotes nightmare ends as NHL approves sale, out clause and all

Greg Wyshynski
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I want to believe this is over.

I truly do. I never again want to sit in front of my laptop watching a procession of freaks vent their spleens to the Glendale City Council. I never want to have to write about the Jobing.com (or whatever) arena lease, parking prices and management fees. I never want the words “Goldwater Institute” to invade a blog post or watch Gary Bettman dodge a Coyotes question during the Stanley Cup Final or email Bill Daly at 2 a.m. about a false lead or wonder when Jerry Reinsdorf’s puppet strings will be pulled back into the ownership derby.

On Monday, Aug. 5, the National Hockey League formalized what the city council had already approved: That the Ice Arizona group headed by George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc have purchased the Phoenix Coyotes and are now the proud owners of this misfit franchise.

From the NHL:

"The National Hockey League believes in Arizona as an NHL market and that these new owners can provide the Coyotes the opportunity to secure a stable, long-term future in Glendale," Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

"We thank Mike Nealy, Don Maloney, Dave Tippett, team captain Shane Doan and all the players and staff for consistently going 'above and beyond' on behalf of the franchise during this long and complex process. We thank the Coyotes' devoted fans for their patient, perseverant support. We are extremely pleased that a positive resolution has been achieved for the fans, the city, the Coyotes and the League."

From LeBlanc on Twitter:

Dear Coyotes fans, it's official and we are thrilled to be the owners of this wonderful franchise. Go Yotes! #heretostay

— Anthony LeBlanc (@anthonydleblanc) August 5, 2013

Again, I want this to be over. So I hope my cynicism is just a Pavlovian response after all these years.

It’s that damn out-clause. The one the team holds, although the city won’t. There are going to be thresholds to hit and success that needs to be maintained, and there are obviously mechanisms in place in which the city gets its losses covered if the team leaves.

But the fact is that it still can leave.

Craig Morgan of Fox Sports Arizona talked with Gosbee about that:

Critics have noted that IceArizona, formerly known as Renaissance Sports and Entertainment, has a five-year out clause it can exercise if its losses should equal or exceed $50 million over that span, but Gosbee said those predictions don’t concern him. “Nobody in my group talks about moving or where we would move. Half the guys have financial or real estate interests in Arizona, and some are moving or retiring down there,” Gosbee said, noting he plans to buy a home in the Valley. (His Calgary home was destroyed by recent floods.)

“We think the model works, and there are lots of attributes that make Phoenix attractive. I want to own this team for the next 30 to 40 years in Arizona.”

I know, I know … raining on the parade floats and all that. Pessimism on a day of optimism. But there have been other suitors for this franchise that have sought the same escape hatch, and it’s always been a tough amendment to accept when the only way you’re going to grow the franchise was through a total, unwavering commitment to the fan base. I don’t see how an out clause cements that relationship. The sword still dangles over their heads.

(Maybe it was sweetening the pot so their other shortcomings were obscured, but the Ice Edge bid that LeBlanc was a part of was one of the few offers that didn’t contain an out clause. And, to the surprise of no one with a modicum of understanding about the human condition, they were immediate fan darlings.)

As I tried to explain to some Coyotes fans earlier in the day: You can take issue with the deal that was cut and still support the market as an NHL city. These are not mutually exclusive notions.

I want hockey to succeed in Glendale, I really do; I’m just not convinced it will under these terms.

Time will tell. In the short term, Coyotes fans get a few years without having to live under this cloud of uncertainty or with the sound of trucks backing up to the arena echoing through the desert. These are amazing hockey fans that have been defecated on from all angles. (I know, gross.) Congrats to them for sticking it through and not having to decide whether to root for Shane Doan as a Nordique.

If this is the end of this multi-year nightmare, let it be known that the Coyotes Saga remains one of the most exhilarating yet exhausting, fascinating yet tedious, informative yet mind-numbing high-stakes stories I’ve ever covered.

It began with a struggle over a renegade billionaire trying to subvert the NHL's system to steal a former Canadian team from its U.S. home and bring it back to Canada.

It ended with a hold-your-nose-and-vote-yes deal from a city council and a press release from the NHL in August.

Talk about your diminishing returns.

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