Whisking the Coyotes off to Las Vegas? Or Winnipeg?

While awaiting the next court date in the Phoenix Coyotes franchise sale/relocation drama (May 19, when the issue of whether the bankruptcy filing was valid is hoped to be decided), we have fresh speculation that instead of Southern Ontario, the NHL might be leaning towards to other destinations for the Coyotes if things don't work out in Phoenix.

First, James Mirtle has a look at a report by David Shoalts for the Globe & Mail, citing a source that floats a scenario in which Jerry Reinsdorf buy the Coyotes and keeps them in Phoenix, with the pre-arranged option to sell out to Jerry Bruckheimer if losses keep mounting. Bruckheimer would then move the Coyotes to Vegas, where presumably they would become the Las Vegas Crime Lab.

Secondly, we have a fresh article at the Globe & Mail (hat tip to Illegal Curve) this afternoon which says that in a previous meeting with a lawyer who works for Moyes, Gary Bettman stated that if a team relocated to Canada, it would be to Winnipeg; a new team for Southern Ontario would need to be an expansion team.  Presumably, the reason there is because a lucrative expansion fee could be extracted for a new Ontario team, with those funds being distributed across the league.

Some of this makes sense, particularly the angle that sees any new local owner setting up ahead of time the opportunity for relocation if serious losses continue. In the meantime, the main job for fans in Phoenix is to rally support, and make the case plain for the city of Glendale. It's an unfortunate choice, but they can either make huge concessions to try and make a bad business deal (the Jobing.com arena) work, or they lose the anchor tenant and face the prospect of propping the facility through other means.

I'm by no means the closest person to this situation, but to me, this seems not so much an issue of whether or not Phoenix is a hockey town, or can support an NHL team (my guess is that it certainly can). It's more about the fallout from a bold gamble to build a sports palace out away from the city at huge expense, and whether or not the assets and liabilities can be restructured enough for the operation to make business sense.

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