Hard Times

Jason Gregor
May 13 2009 02:26PM

hardtimes

The Coyotes have won a court ruling that will force the NHL to prove they have an actual offer for Jerry Reinsdorf in place.  If they don’t, this could get really messy and open the door for other teams to follow suit. And if they don’t Mr. Bettman’s reputation will take a massive hit. While it isn't clear if the NHL will be able to produce this offer, it is becoming more clear that some of the members of the NHL Owners Club are in more trouble than many of us have been lead to believe.

Here is a story from the Toronto Star that says things could be bleak in many places, starting with Tom Hicks and the Dallas Stars:

While the Phoenix Coyotes turned up the heat on the NHL yesterday, the owner of the Dallas Stars appears to be laying enough kindling and timber to start another bankruptcy bonfire. The Coyotes won a court ruling that will force the NHL to tell all it knows about White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf's mysterious bid to purchase the Coyotes to a Phoenix bankruptcy court judge. The NHL must produce all documents related to Reinsdorf's bid today, ruled judge Redfield Baum. The league has said it was close to announcing Reinsdorf as a white knight who would keep the team in Glendale, Ariz., when Jerry Moyes thrust the Coyotes into bankruptcy. The Moyes camp wants to see how good the offer was. "The purpose of the production is to examine the content of those discussions and the potential offer outstanding by Mr. Reinsdorf related to these purported interests," read the motion filed by Moyes lawyer Thomas Salerno. Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie has made a $212.5 million (all figures U.S.) offer to purchase the Coyotes and move them to Hamilton as part of the franchise's bankruptcy proceedings that are being challenged by the NHL. But Phoenix is only one of the many franchises in trouble during the recession. Tom Hicks, who owns the Dallas Stars and baseball's Texas Rangers, defaulted a month ago on $525 million in loans tied to the teams, starting the clock ticking in a showdown with lenders that could see the Stars end up in bankruptcy proceedings in October. At the time, Hicks said he was trying to work out a new deal with his creditors, and perhaps bring in new investors, but has been mum on the situation since. Dallas Stars president Jeff Cogen referred calls to a public relations firm, which said there was "nothing" to report. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly did not respond to an email. A group of 40 financial institutions and other investors hold the debt in Hicks Sports Group, which owns the two teams. It would take 180 days for lenders to foreclose on defaulted loans, according the standard deals involving the NHL. That gives Hicks another five months to find alternate financing, but lenders are tight with their money these days, and those who follow sports financing closely worry it's inevitable that the Stars will follow the Coyotes into bankruptcy. "He's heading in the same direction," said a broker specializing in sports financing, who didn't want his name used because of his dealings with the NHL. "It could be the second team in Chapter 11," said Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College, who specializes in sports business. "When Hicks put himself in that circumstance, he's creating a lot of difficulty for himself. He's going to squirm a little bit. Whatever leverage he had, he loses some of it. "You go to your creditors and try to re-organize your loans," added Zimbalist. "(If) they say no deal, you can declare bankruptcy or sell the franchise or go to other banks and borrow more money." Hicks also co-owns Liverpool, a soccer team in England's Premier League, another franchise looking for new ownership. His holdings in Liverpool – shared with Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett –are outside Hicks Sports Group. None involved believe the Stars are in danger of moving. Dallas is believed to be a strong market with the team able to turn a profit, especially if it makes the playoffs. It's been a bad year for bankruptcies and the NHL. William (Boots) Del Biaggio faces jail time after having been found guilty of fraud for the way he helped finance his minority purchase of the Nashville Predators. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Thrashers owners are fighting with each other, Tampa is looking for new investors and the New York Islanders are hinting at leaving unless they get a new arena. "There could be other (bankrupt) teams down the road," said Zimbalist. "There are a lot of teams – as it were – skating on thin ice."

It will most certainly be the summer of change for the Edmonton Oilers, with a new coach coming, some trades and one or two possible UFA signings. It might be more interesting off the ice, to see how Gary Bettman puts out all of these fires. ould the financially stable Oilers benefit from this situation and pillage and pilfer players from financially strapped teams?  Will the NHL be forced to contract some teams in the next few years? Is relocation back to Canada inevitable?

It is a lock that there will be another Canadian team in the NHL within two years, and maybe we’ll even return to having eight teams some day. I think contraction is unlikely and that the NHL will try attempt to relocate teams to Kansas City, Seattle and Canadian markets before actual contraction would occur.

I don’t see the Oilers being able to pilfer just yet, but I could see it being a realistic option in the future. Especially when the new rink is built, because the team will generate more money with more suites and a capacity of around 18,000 which would be more than 1,000 more than they have now at Rexall. In any scenario you personally would chose, the days of NHL teams continually outbidding one another for high priced talent could be numbered in many markets.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 The Towel Boy
May 13 2009, 02:33PM
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This deserves a "Who Saw This Coming!?!"

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#2 Rick
May 13 2009, 02:39PM
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Dallas is in a shitty situation but from what I gathered it's for much different reasons than the one Phoenix has.

Phoenix simply doesn't work as a franchise and although the final nail in the coffin was Moyes trucking company hitting hard times the losses piling from the Coyotes pretty much just made it a matter of time before he tried to get out from underneath it anyways.

Where as the Dallas Stars, on their own, do alright. The Stars wouldn't be going bankrupt if Hick's didn't mismanage his other entities.

If the NHL was actually able to get investors interested in a lost cause like Phoenix like they claim, they should have a problem getting guys interested in a turn key operation like the Stars.

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#3 RossCreek
May 13 2009, 02:42PM
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This is probably why he's looking to sell his interest in Liverpool (to Canadiens owner George Gillette, who in turn is looking to sell the Habs). Let the musical chairs amongst the owners commence and let the chips fall where they may.

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#4 Archaeologuy
May 13 2009, 02:45PM
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Isnt the Ducks owner in prison as well? Awesome. I would LOVE to see the league contract at least 2 teams, preferably 4.

I wonder what Gary will do now that he's been forced to show his cards. Is he holding Ace-Rag or is it a real hand? I call your All-In Gary. Show em or Muck.

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#5 baggedmilk
May 13 2009, 02:59PM
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Do we start a countdown to "Jim Balsillie Puts Offer on Dallas Stars" headline?

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#6 The Towel Boy
May 13 2009, 03:04PM
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baggedmilk wrote:

Do we start a countdown to “Jim Balsillie Puts Offer on Dallas Stars” headline?

No kidding...seems like the league is ripe for the picking.

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#7 baggedmilk
May 13 2009, 03:06PM
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@ The Towel Boy:

Either that, or now he's thinking:

"I know this tuxedo has my cheque book in it. Is there a 2-for-1 deal I can look into?"

OR

"Dammit I overshot on my offer for the Coyotes"

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#8 MattL
May 13 2009, 03:07PM
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I asked Bettman, he says all these teams are just having a laugh. He's not sure where the court of law got their info, but Phoenix is doing just fine, so is Tampa, NYI, Dallas, and Peter Pan.

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#9 Zdeno Ciger
May 13 2009, 03:09PM
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People say that missing the playoffs or getting ousted in the 1st/2nd round was a lot better when the Oilers were poor. They say that those teams at least played above their contracts and showed heart.

I agree.

But there's NO WAY I wanna go back to those days. Those were scary times to be Oilers fans/Edmontonians. We should be pissed that the Oilers have sucked on the ice the last few years, but also be VERY VERY thankful that our team is now financially solid (even moreso with Katz on board)!

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#10 Wanye Gretz
May 13 2009, 03:11PM
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The Towel Boy wrote:

No kidding…seems like the league is ripe for the picking.

You Sir are right on the money with that comment right there. This is Bettman's real problem IMO:

Many teams are shaky, real bidders aren't hiding around every corner and sooner or later the people with the flush chequebooks will be able to buy what they want from the people hurting for cash.

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#11 Archaeologuy
May 13 2009, 03:12PM
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See, Balsillie's problem was that he was only making 1 offer at a time. Send out equal offers to the Stars, Thrashers, and Islanders on top of the 'Yotes. Nobody sends out resumes 1 at a time, so why make offers for franchises 1 at a time?

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#12 baggedmilk
May 13 2009, 03:18PM
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Zdeno Ciger wrote:

Over interweb high-five for calling yourself Zdeno Ciger.

Wanye and I had an idea a while back that stated real fans like bad Oilers.

Hence why I will be getting Bonsignore on the back of my jersey.

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#13 Mike Krushelnyski
May 13 2009, 03:36PM
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baggedmilk wrote:

Do we start a countdown to “Jim Balsillie Puts Offer on Dallas Stars” headline?

I'm more interested in the countdown to "Bettman Admits He Actually Did Something Wrong" headline.

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#14 baggedmilk
May 13 2009, 03:40PM
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Mike Krushelnyski wrote:

I’m more interested in the countdown to “Bettman Admits He Actually Did Something Wrong” headline.

You know that's never going to happen. He will battle to the death, for the teams in the sunbelt.

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#15 Mike Krushelnyski
May 13 2009, 03:54PM
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@ baggedmilk: It's like that South Park where Saddam Hussein is taking over Canada.

"Phoenix isn't going bankrupt, guy. You just need a rest, fella. The Sun Belt loves hockey! Hey, look over there!"

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#16 GSC
May 13 2009, 04:51PM
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The improprieties of Gary Bettman...it's about time they finally came to the surface.

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#17 Harlie
May 13 2009, 06:07PM
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@ baggedmilk:

count me in for a Don Jackson jersey then. Even Jackson Browne would do. ;)

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#18 RossCreek
May 13 2009, 06:39PM
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At the very least they should move some of the poorer teams to different US markets. I've had enough of Atlanta and Florida. Nashville could go. I'd like Tampa to stick around (just cuz they got a Cup), but wouldn't cry if they left. Put teams in Seattle and/or Portland. Kansas City might be ok (St. Louis rivalry along with current poor professional sports franchises in the market). Houston should work (long hockey history, huge market, Dallas rivalry to spark both franchises) Milwaukee could work. Hartford with a new arena would be a lock. Any of those would at least be better than 4 or 5 current markets.

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#19 ShaunDoe
May 13 2009, 07:02PM
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baggedmilk wrote:

Zdeno Ciger wrote: Over interweb high-five for calling yourself Zdeno Ciger. Wanye and I had an idea a while back that stated real fans like bad Oilers. Hence why I will be getting Bonsignore on the back of my jersey.

I actually have a stick signed by Ciger along with other noteables as our now removed MacT. Wow what a year to recieve Oiler memrobelia as a present!

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#20 oilersseasonticketholdersince99
May 13 2009, 07:27PM
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I think Bettmans days as commishner are coming to an end.If there was no offer to purchase the Coyotes and he is bluffing the other owners will fire him.He should have put his feelings aside for Balsillie took the money and ran.But instead Bettman suffers from small man syndrom, he should be thinking about the well being of the league not some vindetta on Balsillie.

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#21 BigE57
May 13 2009, 09:12PM
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It's disgusting how Bettman goes to the wall for a team that is bleeding money in a non-traditional hockey market, yet turned a blind eye as the Jets and Nordiques left Canada. I'm not saying the Jets would have survived in Winnipeg but they would have had a way better chance.

The long and short of it is that Bettman has to save the Coyotes and thus his job as he still has yet to change the structure of a hockey game to 4 - 15 minute quarters.

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#22 HollaHollaHo'sFoADolla
May 13 2009, 09:29PM
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I just see him now in the upcoming presser, all bobble headed and blinking faster than an S.O.S. signal, trying to blame some Canadian kid working for him for giving him the wrong info. He's like the Hockey Hitler and he wants a Canadian genocide. Go back to basketball you little gypsie.

No but seriously, doesn't he get dizzy when he talks? His head shakes around like he's mixing paint in it.

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#23 HollaHollaHo'sFoADolla
May 13 2009, 09:36PM
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And before anyone says anything about the Hitler metaphor, I'm weeellllll aware that Buttman's as Jewish as King David himself.

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#24 DonDon
May 13 2009, 09:47PM
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With the NHL facing the above problems that offers great opportunities to well managed franchises, what a great time to have salary cap room! And a minimum number of outstanding player contracts! Unfortunately, this is not the case with our Oilers. The hockey operations people have the club stuck at the top of the cap with a bunch of toxic player contracts that are almost impossible to move and with 80 something dubious contracts on their hands. The club is without a coach, going through a comprehensive review of operations, and needing a major overhaul based on Tambellini's assessment of shortcomings. Who is being accountable for this mess? How is it going to get fixed?

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#25 Word
May 13 2009, 10:20PM
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ShaunDoe wrote:

I actually have a stick signed by Ciger along with other noteables as our now removed MacT. Wow what a year to recieve Oiler memrobelia as a present!

Thats how I feel about my Shane Corson stick.

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#26 BUCK75
May 14 2009, 07:49AM
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A small victory for the 'Yotes having the Reinsdorf offer disclosed. Things don't look very good now when the Reinsdorf offer is $80mm less than the first bid. Although Wayne Gretz seems to like the lesser offer more.

Toronto Star wrote: Phoenix Coyotes coach and part-owner Wayne Gretzky is described as "supportive" of a plan that would have Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf buy the Coyotes, according to sources quoted by the Toronto Star. But the Great One still has not made any public comments on the bankruptcy controversy surrounding the team

'The Great One' likes the Reinsdorf offer just so he can coach? Talk about self centered & greedy.

Globe & Mail May 7, 2009 (David Shoalts)wrote: Thursday's court filings also shed new light on the involvement of Wayne Gretzky in the Coyotes. Mr. Gretzky, who is the team's coach, bought a 1.5-per-cent stake in the club for $1-million, according to court filings. He was also supposed to receive 14 per cent of any profits.

Gretzky should be happy that he can get out of this mess & double his investment, instead of endorsing people that want to keep the team in Glendale.

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#27 michael
May 14 2009, 07:56AM
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The economic dominoes that have left millions of Noth Americans out of work is now being seen in the NHL at the ownership level. How long before there are more fires for Bettman to put out. I applaud him for supporting Edmonton while we were in need. Yet the circumstances in each of the other hotspots is not even close to what we experienced her in the late 90s. Atlanta was never a good idea, Tbay and Florida were monumental brain cramps. Nashville may be salvagable. The Islanders have become a franchise that may be non viable because of the arena issue. Is moving franchises to markets like Hamilton, KC, Seattle, or Portland such a bad idea. Bettman and the owners need to recognize the econmic realties of today. Or do something totally off the wall. Contract the league to 25 teams. Get rid of the teams that are bleeding the money out of the league.Just A Thought.

teammate michael

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#28 Colin
May 14 2009, 08:24AM
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All I have to say is...........Yay!!!!!

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#29 Ender the Dragon
May 14 2009, 08:42AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

See, Balsillie’s problem was that he was only making 1 offer at a time. Send out equal offers to the Stars, Thrashers, and Islanders on top of the ‘Yotes. Nobody sends out resumes 1 at a time, so why make offers for franchises 1 at a time?

This is actually a pretty good idea. With that many people clambering for Mr. Basillie's attention (not to mention money), Bettman loses a large chunk of the ownership support he's looking for. At that point, it becomes not a question of if a team comes to Hamilton, but simply which one. And by all accounts, his standing offer with the Coyotes is more than enough to pick up any one of those clubs. Imagine the look on Basillie's face if he were to discover that not only can he finally own a team, but that he might even have a choice of more than one to pick from.

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#30 Archaeologuy
May 14 2009, 08:46AM
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@ Ender the Dragon: HE CAN HAVE HIS OWN DIVISION!

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#31 Archaeologuy
May 14 2009, 08:50AM
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@ Archaeologuy: seriously, I know that CANT happen so please nobody try to correct me.

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#32 scorcoff hemmercules
May 14 2009, 09:17AM
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Feels good to be a fan of a team in a great hockey market with an owner with bottomless pockets. I can't imagine being a die hard fan/ticket holder and have my team moved away forever. Not that most people down south even care about hockey, didn't Phoenix have some rally and less than 100 people showed up?? Weak, move that team.

@ BUCK75

#99 knows he won't find another job coaching in the nhl if the yotes move, I think thats what he's worried about.

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#33 ChiliChunk
May 14 2009, 09:34AM
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@ scorcoff hemmercules:

I really doubt 99 is too worried about his coaching career. I think it is partially just a PR move to have him behind the bench in the first place. If the yotes move he could probably call up every team in the league and say 'I want to be in your management team' and he would have 30 job offers to choose from (well maybe Calgary declines so 29 offers...)

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#34 Greg MC
May 14 2009, 09:53AM
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Juicy $hit. Bettman could be out of work shortly (pun intended) if he misled the owners who are kicking in cash for the Phoenix boat anchor.

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#35 scorcoff hemmercules
May 14 2009, 10:24AM
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@ ChiliChunk:

Haha, that was more of a crack at Wayne than anything, I don't think he's a great coach. I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to move anywhere and would like to keep coaching so the yotes in phoenix is really his only option right now.

"If the yotes move he could probably call up every team in the league and say ‘I want to be in your management team’ and he would have 30 job offers to choose from (well maybe Calgary declines so 29 offers…)"

I doubt that, maybe a few job offers but not anywhere close to 30. What has #99 really done from a coaching/management standpoint in the nhl that warrants him getting hired anywhere he wants???

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#36 BUCK75
May 14 2009, 10:52AM
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@ ChiliChunk: @ scorcoff hemmercules:

I agree that he hasn't really done anything to warrant another management/coaching job. I would assume the only reason he even bought a piece of the team would be because he was asked by the commish? He had no ties to the team before that, why would he choose PHX?

I don't know many people who own 1% of a company that are entitled to 14% of profits & have any say on the direction of an organization.

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#37 BigE57
May 14 2009, 11:12AM
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What's the point of being entitled to 14% of the profits when the team bleeds money? I'm no economist but 14% of nothing is still nothing and as a shareholder would he not be reposnsible if there were a cash call by the team? Wayne should get out of the coaching business and get back to being a true ambassador for hockey.......

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#38 Jack Bauer
May 14 2009, 11:57AM
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So did Bettman and the NHl reveal the offer?

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#39 ChiliChunk
May 14 2009, 12:00PM
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scorcoff hemmercules wrote:

What has #99 really done from a coaching/management standpoint in the nhl that warrants him getting hired anywhere he wants???

Yeah I don't really disagree with you. But lots of players move directly into management at the NHL level due to their overall knowledge and playing experience alone much less having the Team Canada experience he's got. And he's the Great One!!

I'm not saying anyone would offer him another coaching gig but some sort of management thing for sure. Maybe I overestimated the interest but I think he would find something pretty easy if he wanted to.

And when I say 'management' I'm not saying GM. I'm thinking more of a consultant role like Senior Executive Co-Director of Hockey Stuff or something.

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#40 Jason Gregor
May 14 2009, 01:00PM
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UPDATE...

It looks like the Star got ahead of itself. While Moyes did file a request that the NHL prove that their was indeed other legitimate offers, the court has yet to rule on it.

Craig Harris from the Arizona Republic called me, while one of the NATION readers, Ryan, emailed me to say that the Star jumped the gun.

The court will rule on this NEXT Tuesday...Here is a quote from Harris' article...

"A hearing on the demands is set for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in downtown Phoenix. , That's the same day Baum is scheduled to hear who controls the team -the key point in whether the bankruptcy case will continue."

Here is the link... http://www.azcentral.com/sports/coyotes/articles/2009/05/12/20090512coyotesreinsdorf0513.html

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#41 Hemmertime
May 14 2009, 01:02PM
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Gretz should take an Yzerman type role. Stevey Y one of the classiest players ever and hell of a hockey head.

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#42 Subversive
May 14 2009, 01:23PM
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What difference does a new rink in Edmonton make for whether or not they can 'pilfer'? They already spend to the cap, having more money just means they make more profit, but does nothing to allow them to 'pilfer'.

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#43 topshelf
May 14 2009, 01:26PM
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@ Hemmertime: Not too mention he scored one of the sickest OT goals in the history of the game.

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#44 Jason Gregor
May 14 2009, 01:29PM
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Subversive wrote:

What difference does a new rink in Edmonton make for whether or not they can ‘pilfer’? They already spend to the cap, having more money just means they make more profit, but does nothing to allow them to ‘pilfer’.

It means that teams that can't spend to the cap and need to rid themselves of salary might have to do so, and get less than fair market value in return for a specific player.

Many teams might not be willing to go near the cap, and when the new rink comes in that should give the Oilers more revenue, thus giving them the ability to continue to spend to the cap.

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#45 The Menace
May 14 2009, 02:39PM
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Subversive wrote:

What difference does a new rink in Edmonton make for whether or not they can ‘pilfer’? They already spend to the cap, having more money just means they make more profit, but does nothing to allow them to ‘pilfer’.

coaches dont' count against the cap - we can hire more coaches!

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#46 BUCK75
May 14 2009, 02:56PM
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@ Jack Bauer:

I misunderstood an article in the Toronto Star on May 12th saying that the Reinsdorf offer was reportedly around $130mm. They haven't released the price - just rumours of what the price might be.

After reading more articles it appears that there is no new news today.

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#47 BigE57
May 14 2009, 05:04PM
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@ Jason Gregor: I'm wondering, if this Phoenix thing gets drawn out, cause that never happens in the legal system especially south of the border, what are the chances that the Coyotes don't ice a team next season, will the NHL pump money into the team to keep them afloat for an entire season? Seems like that would be setting a bad precedent considering there are other teams on a slippery slope. We all saw how much MLB liked carrying the Expos and everyone knows how that turned out.

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#48 Jack Bauer
May 14 2009, 07:49PM
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@ BigE57:

Can you imagine the final days of the Expos. You walk into Olympic stadium, dodge a few ceiling shingles, get introduced to the players because theres more of you than there are of them.

Amazing

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#49 Harlie
May 14 2009, 09:30PM
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F YEAH THE CANES DO IT AGAIN!!!

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#50 HollaHollaHo'sFoADolla
May 14 2009, 10:10PM
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Harlie wrote:

F YEAH THE CANES DO IT AGAIN!!!

Aaron Ward didn't go down and Scott Walker drills his orbital bone into the back of his head, Tim Thomas goes down and he chips in a game 7 OT winner.

Daaammmmmmnnnnnn. Two best regular season teams gone. Anyone see Pronger maul our future superstar? Bastard.

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