Hockey season is underway. And in Phoenix, the seemingly endless off-season bankruptcy parade may finally be forgotten, for at least 60 minutes, when the Phoenix Coyotes open at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets on October 10.
For a number of months, a wave of personal vendettas and crumbling finances have plagued one of the NHL's major market franchises ever since its now previous owner, Jerry Moyes, tried to file bankruptcy without notifying the league. Moreover, he also conspired with an aggressive Canadian billionaire, Jim Balsillie, to move the team to Hamilton, Ontario. NHL league executives were definitely not on board, especially after Balsillie had previously attempted to move both the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins to Canada.
After U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Redfield Baum rejected Balsille's latest bid to buy the Phoenix Coyotes out of bankruptcy, the team and its fans seem to have settled on the idea that the Coyotes may continue to howl in Phoenix. Balsillie, apparently tired of the league's stonewalling and equally powerful first line of attorneys, agreed to not appeal.
Balsillie's bid was for $242.5 million. But it wasn't the money that prompted the court's decision. The purchase of the team, according to Judge Baum, would undermine the league's right to determine where franchises can be located. However, Baum also rejected the league's bid of $140 million to buy the team.
So now, with skates on the ice across the country, the Phoenix Coyotes do not have an owner. Despite that, deputy league commissioner, Bill Daly, believes the team is an attractive sports franchise. "We're confident that there will be buyers for this club that want to operate it in Phoenix," he said.
As of the start of the season, the court has maintained that current management and staff is to remain in place and continue business as usual. Amidst the scuffle, the team has lost close to 40 percent of its season ticket holders. However, as of October 2, only 1,000 tickets were left for the opener.
Fans are ready to put the mess behind them and cheer for a hopefully refreshed team that clearly grew tired of the distractions and confusion. As a result, team sales managers are trying to sell an entire off-season's worth of ticket packages in under 10 days. No easy task in a down economy. Nevertheless, fans are poised for a "Welcome Back Whiteout" and will be given white shirts upon entry to the arena.
Hopefully, nothing else will happen to the team's status to stain the thrill of the opener. Except maybe some Blue Jacket blood.