Gary Bettman Might Finally See Coyotes Leaving Phoenix

Phoenix Coyotes center Martin Hanzal #11 gets the puck past Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford #50 to tie the score at 3-3. Chicago went on to defeat the Coyotes in a shootout, by the score of 4-3, at the United Center, Chicago, Il

Is NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman finally submitting to the idea of moving the Coyotes out of Phoenix?

It’s hard to say what Bettman is thinking, but his public language seems to be softening.

He’s gone from calling the situation in Phoenix “fixable” to admitting that time is running out for the Coyotes to stay in Phoenix.

Bettman also maintained he wants to do what he can to keep an NHL team in Phoenix, but this is the first Bettman statement I can recall that acknowledges the Coyotes might need to move out of Arizona.

First, a quick summary of the issue. Matthew Hulsizer wants to buy the Coyotes from the NHL. In order for Hulsizer to do that, the city of Glendale needs to sell $116 million worth of bonds. The money is for parking rights at arena. Hulsizer will use that bond money to buy the team.

The Goldwater Institute, a think tank, says this is a bad deal and is telling bond-rating agencies the deal on the table is unconstitutional. This has driven up the interest being charged on the bonds, since the Goldwater questions seem to indicate there’s some risk involved with the bonds.

Bettman is in Phoenix, trying to calm everyone down and keep the deal together.

But even Bettman, the man who brought the NHL to Phoenix, has to be wondering what his end game is.

The Coyotes have the second-worst attendance in the NHL. A city is going into further debt to hold onto the team. There are projections showing that the deal is economically good for the city, but I’m sure there are also projections showing the city will take a loss on it.

Players surely must struggle playing for a franchise with such an uncertain future.

Just exactly who are the Phoenix Coyotes working out for?

Winnipeg is clamoring for an NHL team. The U.S. economy isn’t rebounding the way it was believed it would.

Bettman seems like he might be recgonizing that Phoenix isn’t a viable NHL market. He might be realizing that as long as the Coyotes are in Phoenix, he’ll be making regular stops to Arizona to defend the viability of the team and the soundness of the deals that kept it there.

Yesterday, Bettman showed the first cracks in his resolve to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix. He still might be a long way from wanting to move the team to Canada, but he seems closer to that notion than he was just a few weeks ago.

Keeping the NHL in Phoenix is a lot of work and the benefits of holding onto the team are becoming less and less clear.