Where Will the Phoenix Coyotes Call Home Next Season?

As the Phoenix Coyotes exited the playoffs due to a 4-0 sweep from the Detroit Red Wings, players and personnel knew the season was done but uncertainty still remains. With the ownership structure and issues arising with potential buyers, not many are sure whether the Coyotes will call Phoenix home next season.

Since the team filed for bankruptcy in 2009, the NHL (who has ownership control of the team) has had difficulty finding a new owner. Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf was a potential buyer at one point but eventually dropped out after not submitting a bid at the bankruptcy hearing. Another company, Ice Edge Holdings, Inc, made an attempt to purchase the team, however, no bid was ever submitted and the company decided to focus their attention to other interests. Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie was interested in purchasing the team and moving it to Hamilton, Ontario but bankruptcy rulings prohibited the sale from going through.

In late 2010, Chicago investor Michael Hulsizer and other investors expressed interest in purchasing the team but questions still remain as to whether or not he will obtain the franchise. After it was announced that a proposed deal between the NHL and Hulsizer would involve the sale of city bonds that would pay Hulsizer over $100 million against future revenue, concerns about the lease agreement have been brought up and legal action may be taken should the sale go through. The Goldwater Institute, a taxpayer advocacy group, has said they will file a lawsuit if the sale to Hulsizer goes through.

Even Hulsizer wants to keep the team in Phoenix should a sale go through, success in that market has not been reached since the franchise moved there from Winnipeg in 1996. The team has failed to make a profit, has had long periods of on-ice struggles and has had difficulty building a local fan base. The team has been in the market for close to 15 seasons and has not had a long run in the playoffs to build a long-standing fan base. Numerous minor league teams came in and out of Phoenix before the Coyotes called the town home and many believe that hockey in the desert may be a stretch.

During the bankruptcy hearings, the NHL has expressed interest in moving the team back to Winnipeg. The franchise originally began as the Winnipeg Jets in the World Hockey Association back in the 1970s and the city does have a new arena, the MTS Centre, that can be expanded to provide more seating. The MTS Centre could be expanded from 15,000 seats to 17,500 seats, which would make it a viable NHL venue. Local businesses and businessmen have expressed interest in purchasing and supporting an NHL team in Winnipeg, which could make the city a viable option.

Even if it is determined that Winnipeg is not a strong enough market to support the franchise, other markets have been considered to be possible NHL markets. Kansas City has a new arena that could be enticing for an NHL team, however, previous minor league franchises have come in and out of the city. Kansas City is also home Major League Baseball and NFL franchises and competing in that market against those teams will have to be taken into consideration. Oklahoma City has also been considered due to the success of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder and the city of Hartford has expressed interest in bringing another NHL team to the city.

Even though the season is over for the Coyotes, whether or not they will call Phoenix home next season is still in question.

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~ by jeffrsabo on April 22, 2011.

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