March 02, 2011
In case you haven't heard, the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes remains about as predictable as Charlie Sheen in the 12th hour of a filibuster.
The latest bit of fun has prospective owner Matthew Hulsizer potentially exploring other NHL ownership options, as he told Fox Sports Arizona that the threat of litigation from the Goldwater Institute could inflate interest rates and "could cost Glendale as much as $100 million in extra interest over 30 years."
That leaves Hulsizer, the NHL, Glendale and bond investors having to decide whether they will bite the bullet and take out or buy bonds with higher interest rates. There's also the question of whether investors will purchase the bonds with the Goldwater suit lingering over hockey in the desert.
Hulsizer said Monday he just wants Goldwater to decide on whether to sue, and not leave the deal hanging in the balance.
One problem is that the Goldwater group isn't in any hurry to declare its intentions; the other problem is that their basic argument -- that Glendale's giving Hulsizer an estimated $197 million violates the Arizona Constitution's ban on government financial gifts to businesses -- has its advocates. They've requested more documents on the matter, and the sale remains on hold.
Two questions you might be asking: Does Goldwater have a legit argument here, and what does this all mean for Jets fans currently drooling over their Teppo Numminen(notes) bobbleheads about a return to Winnipeg?
Laurie Roberts, a columnist for The Arizona Republic, offered a Goldwater-sympathetic piece that explained its motivations:
In an interview with The Republic's Rebakah Sanders, Hulsizer questioned whether Goldwater really wants the team to stay in Arizona. "If they do indeed want the team to stay," he said, "then wouldn't they want the city to be able to complete financing at the best possible rate?"
No doubt, they would. But I'm guessing they would also want make sure that this deal is not an illegal subsidy of a hockey team, made by a city desperate to bail out a bad deal made earlier in the decade when Glendale spent $180 million to build a hockey arena.
And on the potential litigation:
Hulsizer says he doesn't believe the deal violates the gift clause and he questions why Goldwater has contacted the banks to inform them it might sue. He believes Goldwater is trying to torpedo the deal in the bond market because its lawyers know they can't make a case in court.
"I'm not asking for money to build a new arena," Hulsizer said. "I'm inheriting a terrible problem. But I really like hockey and I feel like we can make a few tweaks and we can make a pretty good go of it. (But) it's going to be a loser for awhile."
Actually, I'd like to see him make a good go of it. But if the deal's illegal, Goldwater should sue.
Seth Pollack had some strong words on Desert Dirt, an SB Nation Arizona blog, regarding Goldwater:
The entire future of the franchise let alone the financial disaster their leaving would be to Glendale, is left up to the whims of some conservative policy wonks and lawyers at the Goldwater Institute who claims to be an "independent government watchdog supported by people who are committed to expanding free enterprise and liberty."
I would love to hear how they explain away their interference in the business of the elected representatives of the City of Glendale and the private business of Hulsizer and the NHL as somehow related to their commitment to liberty.
Without wading too deep into the partisan he said/she said here, you can't fault an organization for vetting what is massive amount of funding being given to an individual who, frankly, could be able to fund the sale himself (or with additional investors).
But there comes a point at which investigation becomes obstruction, and you get the sense Goldwater's trying to run out the clock here with its non-committal litigation.
As for Winnipeg, Darren Dreger of TSN reports that True North, who owns the Manitoba Moose and the MTS Centre, is expecting some decision on relocation for the 2011-12 NHL season "before May."
Hulsizer met with his group of investors in Chicago on Sunday to discuss the situation and remains confident the sale will go through. If it crumbles, or things worsen in Atlanta in the coming weeks, Winnipeg is prepared to be a soft landing.
Anytime we discuss the Coyotes and their local politics here, it's with a grain of salt. There's so much public posturing, so many false deadlines and other canards put out by all sides that the truth is drowned out in the cacophony.
The NHL is confident this gets done. Hulsizer is confident this gets done. Glendale seems determined this gets done. So why the hell isn't it done on March 2?
The attendance last night was 15,751 for the Coyotes and Dallas Stars in Glendale. They deserve better than this tired drama.