All Quiet Before the Legal Storm
PHOENIX--Waiting for this town to get all worked up about the potential loss of the Coyotes is a waste of time. It's just not going to happen.
That's not an insult or criticism, just a fact. This is a city where about 7,000 households on average watch Phoenix games on TV, an indication there just hasn't been the kind of grassroots growth in support of this NHL franchise that was once imagined.
Could there ever be? Depends on who you talk to. Today, in another steamer expected to see the thermometer jump over 40C, there's more local interest in tonight's American Idol finale than there is in the bankruptcy proceedings set to begin in a few hours downtown.
It's kind of like one of those old westerns with the false front buildings. There's a hockey team here, but is there anything real behind it? Who knows.
From a news point of view, the biggest worry is that nothing will be decided today, that Judge Redfield T. Baum will listen and then require time to make an intelligent decision. That said, bankruptcy proceedings tend to move quickly because people are looking for their money, and both sides in the Coyotes dispute are looking to expedite matters.
The primary issue today is who controls the Coyotes. If it's the NHL, well, it's probably bye-bye Jim Basillie, at least until the next NHL team gets in trouble. The hockey club may, however, stay in bankruptcy, with the league using that process to cut the best possible deal for new owners trying to make a go of it in Phoenix.
If it's Jerry Moyes - good news for Balsillie - then you almost certainly will see an NHL appeal, and the entire business will get dragged off to another court.
Unfortunately, this may all get stickier at a time when the NHL's unfortunate post-season schedule may be about to dissolve all the positive momentum generated by the terrific second round of the playoffs.
It'll be 10 days from now until the Hurricanes and Penguins get to Game 5, if the series gets that far. It'll be 11 days before the Hawks and Wings get to Game 6, if necessary. The Pittsburgh-Carolina series has a pair of two-day breaks in the middle of that competition, while Detroit and Chicago have three sets of two off-days during that series.
This approach is deadly to the rabid hockey fan who has spent the last month watching at least one game every night. Now, it becomes more of a guessing game as to when the games will be played at a time of year when outdoor options become increasingly attractive even to the worst couch potato.
As well, with fewer games, there's more room for non-playoff stories to become prominent. If this bankruptcy process drags out and gets nastier, there's going to be an awful lot of bad ink out there for the NHL.
Those of us looking for compromise, something that would give Balsillie a chance to make a go of it in Hamilton while offering a good faith opportunity for some business group to make hockey work in Phoenix, appear likely to be disappointed.
But we'll know more in a few hours.