Winnipeg fans have been vocal about their desire to land the Coyotes franchise. (Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)
Officially, the NHL's position is that it does not favour relocation. It makes sense and is perfectly understandable. But, we all know that is not reality.
For the second straight year, Glendale's city councillors pledged $25 million US
to cover potential Coyotes' losses. We can argue the intelligence of this decision, but we cannot argue the consequences of saying no. The team was gone.
But the situation is far from over
. And it's crossing into cruelty. People can only be jerked around for so long before they hit the breaking point.
The moment the Coyotes' situation was settled (at least until next May's council meeting), attention turned to the Atlanta Thrashers. It's like drinking too much. You reach a point where you say, "I actually can't stand the taste of this right now."
Truth is, people who know more about NHL business than I do have said for months that Atlanta is the team to watch. Maybe they're right, since the Thrashers' balance sheet is almost as ugly as Phoenix's - minus a local government willing to throw an armoured truck full of cash at the problem.
We can make all of the attendance jokes we want about the Coyotes and Thrashers, but there are real people affected by this. People who need their jobs in a difficult economy (especially in Arizona). They don't deserve an annual yank at their employment chains. What they do deserve is a clearer understanding of their futures.
Then, there is Winnipeg.
The people of Manitoba are overcome with excitement. "It's crazy here," is the common phrase. Around the NHL, there is praise for how the ownership group has kept quiet, waiting patiently for great news. Several times, it's been told to "be ready." If the league was a girlfriend, Winnipeg would have dumped her by now.
When you're so emotional, it's very easy for that excitement to turn. How long can the NHL say, "Wait, wait, wait, maybe... er, soon" and not face anger? My guess is it's getting close. Very close.
Here's what I believe the NHL really wants: to get through one more season. For years, it's been promising prospective new owners a better U.S. TV deal and a better CBA. The new TV deal
- as of now - is worth about $5 million per team. But it's the CBA that really matters for the Atlantas, Phoenixes and Floridas of the world.
Whatever the case, just come out and say it already. Reveal the scenarios before the attitude turns really ugly.
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