Phoenix Coyotes fan Monique Reaux can breathe easy knowing that her beloved hockey team will not be moving to Hamilton, Ont.
Judge Redfield T. Baum rejected bids to buy the Coyotes Wednesday from both the NHL and BlackBerry tycoon Jim Balsillie, a decision that means the Coyotes will continue to play in Arizona.
Reaux, who is a Coyotes season ticket holder, watched the bidding war unfold all summer and said she can't help but thank NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for his tireless efforts in trying to keep the team in Phoenix.
"I have to say he has been our saviour," Reaux said. "He and [deputy commissioner Bill] Daly have been down here, shaking hands, getting on the public TV and getting our plight out there. To me it shows something good and that we're going to be here for a while."
The Coyotes are not the first team Bettman has saved.
The man who is perceived in Canadian hockey circles as being 'anti-Canadian,' played an integral role in keeping NHL franchises in Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa when teams faced financial troubles in the 1990s. The implementation of the Canadian assistance plan by Bettman saw the richer American teams give teams north of the border a piece of their revenue, preventing their demise.
With the off-ice distraction now behind them, there is renewed optimism in the air as Coyotes fans can finally focus on the season ahead.
"I have not heard so much casual discussion, amongst people who have sort of drifted away from hockey, they're already buzzing. I don't hear that "Oh God we're gonna get killed, the power-play is going to suck again," Reaux said.
"I hear the players' names mentioned, their stats, their strengths and weaknesses being mentioned. People are really getting behind this new Coyotes era, so to speak. The fans have so much confidence in [general manager] Don Maloney building us a winner."
'Phoenix still has a lot to learn'
Reaux, who moved to Arizona from Lancaster, Calif., in 2005, said that as a hockey city Phoenix still has a lot to learn.
"Phoenix is a bandwagon city, because people have a choice in sports. If you have a choice, what do you want? You want a winner. Six years of careless and incompetent ownership has produced a mediocre, at best, hockey team," she said. "You're going to need to have a draw for people to come first and we haven't had that yet."
Reaux said that a draw might be the hiring of Dave Tippett, who will replace Wayne Gretzky as the head coach in Phoenix, a move that has the backing of the Coyotes faithful.
"Dave Tippett was the most fantastic thing to happen in years. We need an experienced hand on the helm, at this point because we are at a do or die situation, but I do think that Dave has more ability to pull this off then Gretzky did."
As for Gretzky, Reaux said she was proud to have the 'Great One' as a Coyotes coach, but thinks his leaving is for the best.
"I'm sorry to see him go and I hope to see him in a prominent role in the NHL, because he deserves it, but I'm glad he's not the Coyotes' coach anymore," she said. "Unfortunately the situation just did not work out."
Reaux, whose first grandchild is on the way, said she expects the Coyotes to remain in Phoenix for at least the next five years, but if they move she may too.
"I am at a point in my life where I can go anywhere and I may have to go somewhere else to get my hockey fix. I may pull up the stakes and maybe the Predators or maybe the Stars will be my team."