NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was interviewed by Rob Kerr of Sportstalk 960 while attending the NHL Draft over the weekend, and he had comments about the ongoing Coyotes ownership/arena saga. He also had some harsh words for the Goldwater Group, the watchdog organization suing the city of Glendale to prevent a deal that would keep the Coyotes in Arizona. Bettman suggested that moving franchises was "a last resort." He added: "We don't look at where we're going next unless we absolutely have to leave a place where we are. So we're working on fixing Phoenix because it's the right thing for fans of the Coyotes." Audio of the interview is available here (via Lisa Halverstadt), with Bettman's comments on the Coyotes starting around 3:30. Bettman's comments are transcribed after the jump.
In response to Bettman's suggestion that moving a franchise was the last resort but a possibility, Kerr asked how far along in that process they were in Arizona. Bettman responded:
"The Goldwater Institute has reared its head again, and made it a little more complicated, which is what they try and do. For whatever reason they feel inclined to substitute their judgement for the government officials who were duly elected in Glendale, Arizona, and that's part of the process we're going through. Will they ultimately be successful in killing the Coyotes? I hope not. We're trying to avoid that happening but if that's the case, and that building is empty, and Westgate is destroyed, and the city of Glendale has severe problems, people can then turn to the Goldwater institute and talk about who should have been running this process, them, or the good people who were elected to be the council of the city of Glendale."
He talked about being present for a Glendale city council meeting:
"An economist came in and said that the deal that the deal that was on the table actually benefits the city of Glendale. And frankly, there's a real concern about what happens to the building and the surrounding area if there's no team there. And it appears that the Goldwater Institute is doing everything possible, as they did a year ago in the [unsuccessful deal with potential Coyotes buyer Matthew Hulsizer], to make it impossible for the city to make a deal. And maybe they're right, maybe they're wrong, but it's not helping the process."
Bettman was complimentary of the Chipman Group, the organization that bought the Atlanta Thrashers and moved them to Winnipeg to become the Jets. Asked if he would suggest that that same process should be followed by people in Quebec City, Bettman said that "there is no process in QC right now. We know there's interest in Quebec City, as there is in other cities, but it's nothing that we're exploring or pursuing or doing anything with."
Throughout the interview Bettman sounded frustrated with the Goldwater Group, and did not shy away when his words were described as harsh.