Shoalts: Yet another mystery buyer emerges for the Phoenix Coyotes

The Globe and Mail

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media prior to the start of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey finals in Chicago, Illinois, June 12, 2013. (JIM YOUNG/REUTERS)

Stop the presses, Phoenix Coyotes watchers! Another mystery buyer is on the scene.

By your agent's count, this is the 473rd mystery buyer to arrive since this sorry saga began in May, 2009 when Jerry Moyes got tired of writing $30-million (all currency U.S.) cheques every year to cover the NHL team's losses and put it in bankruptcy court in the failed attempt to sell to BlackBerry mogul Jim Balsillie. And this one, according to multiple sources, is just like the previous ones - all hat and no cattle.

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Gary Sherwood, a rookie politician who was elected to the city council of suburban Glendale in January along with three other newcomers, spoke to the Arizona Republic about this mystery buyer. Surprisingly, the fellow who got elected promising more transparency in government declined to identify the alleged rich person.

Hmm, what a coincidence. Two days after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman executed his time-honoured squeeze play on the Glendale politicians, Sherwood fires back with talk of a new buyer who might even reveal himself on Friday. City council also said it has four outside bidders for the arena-management contract, which undoubtedly also has Bettman quaking in his boots.

Bettman kicked off this year's game of chicken by saying at his annual Stanley Cup final press conference this could finally be the summer the Coyotes leave Jobing.com Arena in Glendale. He even mused about a boarded-up arena and wouldn't deny the team could be placed on "hiatus" if a suitable home like Seattle wasn't ready.

In other words, the Glendale taxpayers must cough up around $15-million a year to prospective owners George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc in "arena-management fees" or Bettman will sell the team in a New York minute to someone who will move it to Seattle, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Quebec City or wherever. Glendale, which has approved only $6-million a year for a management fee in its tentative 2013-14 budget, which needs to be finalized at the end of the month, doesn't have that kind of money but that doesn't matter.

Even though the four new councillors, including Mayor Jerry Weiers, were elected because they promised to stop throwing money at professional sports teams, if they do not find something approaching $15-million a year for the Coyotes over the next four or five years, the team will be gone. The talks between Glendale and LeBlanc and Gosbee over an arena lease mostly concern finding that money, even if it has to come in the form of a loan from the city.

The bid from Gosbee and LeBlanc is mostly borrowed money, which is why they need the city to cough up. But it's the only bid out there and Bettman wants this wrapped up by June 27 so it can be presented to the NHL governors for approval and the league can get a 2013-14 schedule out in July. Glendale council meets June 25 and also needs to finalize its budget because the fiscal year starts July 1. The principals say to expect a deal within two weeks but no one has put a deadline on it because putting the money together is too difficult.

Sherwood and his fellow tough-talkers had better not doubt Bettman will follow through when it comes to moving the team. They are amateurs at this game compared to the NHL commissioner.

Back in late May, 2010, the previous version of Glendale council was balking at coughing up a $25-million "management fee" for the second year in a row. So Bettman said fine, if you do not have proof the $25-million is ready and waiting by 5 p.m. tomorrow, the Coyotes will be sold to Mark Chipman and moved to Winnipeg. Fifteen minutes before the deadline, Glendale caved.

This may be a new city council but do not count on it holding firm when it comes to handing out the taxpayers' money to the Coyotes. It is clear Bettman, Gosbee and LeBlanc have managed to frighten the politicians into believing if the Coyotes and the $5-million in annual revenue they provide the city (which isn't enough to service the debt on the arena, by the way) leave for greener pastures, economic disaster awaits.

And if you don't think Bettman doesn't have the Glendale politicians already dancing to his tune, think again. Two weeks ago, he and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly formally introduced Gosbee and company along with their arena-lease aspirations to council in a series of four meetings from 9 a.m. to noon on the same day.

Why would there be four meetings when one would do, you ask? That would be to get around Arizona's open-meeting law, which states any meeting that has a quorum of a governing body in attendance must be open to the public.

So the four meetings never had more than three of the seven members of Glendale council present. The lease negotiations are being conducted with the same secrecy. All four of the new councillors who pledged greater transparency in government attended those meetings

Follow on Twitter: @dshoalts