$180 Million (And More) Doesn't Buy Loyalty From NHL

It's less effective to rattle a saber that's already in your opponent's torso.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic spotted the latest veiled threat leaked last week to the media by the NHL at the city of Glendale. Apparently, Glendale failed to drop $25 million in escrow to cover expected losses for the Phoenix Coyotes franchise as part of an earlier agreement to extend time for Glendale to find an owner willing to keep the team in the $180 million Jobing.com Arena.

According to Sportsnet.ca's John Shannon, "It took the threat of franchise movement and a 15-minute deadline before the money was transferred to the appropriate account. The city, it seems, thinks it is in the driver's seat when it comes to the Coyotes."

But is the money even there or even theirs?

Potential Coyotes buyer #74 Matthew Hulsizer placed the money in escrow on behalf of Glendale, but it's not clear if the money can be touched by the NHL despite apparently having the right to do so.

The city has dug in its heels with the NHL, stonewalled the Arizona Republic as much as legally possible, and generally provided little reason to believe Hulsizer (or anyone else) will be able to buy the franchise before the end of the year. This would cede control of the process to the NHL and a possible move north for the team.

But, not to put too fine a point on it, who exactly do you think owns the car you're driving, Commissioner Bettman?

You know, the one you sold to Glendale for $180 million along with the undercoating package known as Westgate City Center? The one that Glendale budget writers doubt will make $7 million in arena fees and taxes for fiscal year 2011, not to mention the $2.3 million it spends yearly on fire, police, transportation, and maintenance costs to keep it running?

The one with the auto loan now down to a mere $155 million in municipal bonds? The one the city has considered taking out additional loans on in the form of funding districts to kick money to someone else to drive the car around for them?

Two people on the Glendale city council who have been staunch supporters of the arena and approved the $25 million escrow account in the first place have runoff elections for their seats in early November. It would certainly help their re-election cause if their constituents could somehow not be reminded constantly about how their councilmember voted to cover corporate losses over the voters' losses, costing the NHL allies it really cannot afford to lose in its own bid to stay relevant in the Southwest.

Perhaps Commissioner Bettman doesn't think Phoenix residents will hear his displeasure north of the border. Perhaps he doesn't think Glendale has any other choice.

Or perhaps he didn't notice Westgate City Center added a DeVry branch recently. Their MBA program probably covers what to do when someone demands you invest even more money in their scheme or else possibly lose slightly more cash than you are currently hemorrhaging. Bettman might want to take a more equivocal stance before enough Glendale residents get to that day in class to want to vote the whole city council out.

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