Dear Mr. Bettman,
I’m going to be blunt with you Gary; I’m not going to sugar-coat anything. Look around you, Gary. You’ve got ownership problems with a number of franchises. Every time you seem to get one squared away, like Tampa, another one or two crop up (Los Angeles and Phoenix for example). It’s time to make some hard choices my friend.
No one wants to admit they’ve made a mistake. But if you haven’t already noticed, most of the franchises that are experiencing ownership problems and/or financial issues are in the Sun Belt; where you so bravely expanded the NHL to in the ‘90’s. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have done that but maybe you went a little too far with it. I mean come on, two teams in freaking Florida!?!?!?
In addition to expansion, you allowed two franchises in more traditional hockey-markets, Hartford and Winnipeg to relocate to Raleigh and Phoenix respectively. I understand neither Hartford nor Winnipeg was particularly viable at that time but moving those franchises where you did sure seems like you tried to force-feed hockey onto an unsuspecting fan base. Raleigh, North Carolina is probably best known as a college basketball and NASCAR town. Phoenix, well Phoenix is known for being…….for being really hot and dry. Hockey just doesn’t seem like a natural fit in either of those cities.
But I digress; back to Phoenix for a moment. In just the last 18 months or so you’ve: had to take control of the franchise from its previous ownership; pay all of the bills and incur all of the financial losses; buy the team out of bankruptcy to keep Jim Balsillie from buying it and moving it to Canada; and now seen two potential ownership groups fail to reach an accord on a new lease agreement with the city of Glendale (something you have said is a must in order to keep the team in Phoenix).
So the question is, now what? Don’t worry Gary; I’ve got your back on this one. For once, lady luck seems to be smiling on you. Have you been paying attention to the political happenings in Arizona lately? If not, I’ll fill you in real quick.
Arizona has just passed into law an immigration bill which is being met with criticism from all sides of the state. Even California Governor Arnie Schwarzenegger is taking shots at it. How does this help you? Simple, now pay attention.
I’m sure you were way too busy in 1991 – 1992 counting all of the millions of dollars you were extracting from the ownership groups of the expansion franchises you so generously allowed into Club NHL to remember what was going on in Arizona. That’s alright; I’m here to educate you so listen up Gary.
The biggest sporting event of the year, the Super Bowl, was scheduled to be played in Tempe, Arizona in January of 1993. Unfortunately for the residents of Arizona, they were either too clueless or just too racially insensitive to pass a little measure on the ballot in 1990 that would have made Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday an official state holiday. Needless to say the oversight was met with much criticism; just like Arizona is facing now with their new immigration law.
OK Gary; here’s where it should get interesting for you so jot down some notes if you need to. In response to the holiday ballot measure not passing, the NFL took, yes took, Super Bowl XXVII away from Arizona and moved it to Pasadena, California instead.
Are you seeing where I’m going with this yet? Let’s move ahead to today, shall we? In MLB, next year’s All-Star extravaganza is scheduled to be played in, yes you got it, Phoenix. US Senators are calling on the MLB player’s union to boycott the game if the law isn’t repealed. Players have indicated they may not play in the game in protest of the law. It’s conceivable that MLB will follow the NFL’s lead from 1991 and move the game elsewhere.
Do you see where I am going with this yet, Gary? No? Alright, I’ll break it all the way down for you. THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO MOVE THE COYOTES FRANCHISE BACK TO WINNIPEG WITHOUT ADMITTING YOUR OWN MISTAKE. You have a ready made excuse just sitting there in front of you; take it!!!
You see, Arizona doesn’t deserve a franchise. Not if they’re going to pass another ill-conceived law that is generating all kinds of negative publicity. Didn’t they learn the first time? Arizona only officially recognized Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday after losing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue because of a tourism boycott and the move of the Super Bowl. How do you think the Coyotes will fare financially if something like that were to happen again? Calls for California to boycott Arizona businesses are already being voiced. How do you suppose that will affect the local economy in Arizona?
You see Gary, you really have no choice but to accept Winnipeg businessman David Thomson’s millions of dollars on behalf of the NHL owners and let him move the Coyotes back to where they came from in the first place. You’ll never have a better opportunity than now. You can cite Glendale’s unwillingness to meet the conditions you’ve set forth and the likely economic pratfall about to beset Arizona. The best part is you’ll never have to admit it was probably a bad idea in the first place to move a hockey team to a desert community like Phoenix in the first place. Come on Gary, make it happen.
Edit: I realize Bettman was hired on February 1, 1993 and was not responsible for the first wave of expanison into Ottawa, Flordia and Anaheim but I use him because he is the current face of the NHL owners who did begin the movement into the southern USA. When directing this to Bettman I am also addressing all NHL owners.