Let me tell you a somewhat personal story.
I was 14 years old before I really started getting into hockey. It was always there, but the Minnesota North Stars made the Stanley Cup Finals in 1991 with a magical playoff run, and from across the border in Wisconsin, I started to watch more and more of the sport. I didn't attend my first hockey game until 1992, and the North Stars left the Twin Cities the next year. Hearts were broken, and many still haven't forgiven Norm Green for it. Probably never will, and you can argue they shouldn't.
What's the point? Like many others who know how it feels to lose their favorite sports team to relocation, I have taken a pretty strong stance against relocation over the years. To me, it's the absolute last resort, outside of the all-out contraction of said franchise. Outside of extreme circumstances, no franchise should ever be relocated unless every available option has first been exhausted.
I was somewhat leery of the Thrashers being allowed to move out of Atlanta, but it did seem there was a lot of effort put into finding a local buyer.
Then again, maybe the NHL should have spent as much time and effort trying to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta as it has spent -- and apparently will continue to spend -- on keeping the Coyotes in Phoenix.
The latest attempt to sell the team to a buyer committed on keeping it in Arizona ended Thursday, when Greg Jamison missed a deadline to purchase the team and activate a 20-year arena management deal that would pay him $15 million annually.
"We will not be able to complete our purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes today in time to meet our deadline with the city of Glendale," Jamison said in a statement. "However, our journey to purchase the Coyotes will continue. We realize this will require additional conversations with the city of Glendale and the NHL. We still believe we can reach an agreement that satisfies everyone. We hope negotiations with the city proceed as smoothly as possible, as everyone involved wants the Coyotes to remain in Arizona.
... "To Arizona's sports and hockey fans and the City of Glendale, we appreciate your patience and diligence. We wish everything was completed today as we worked extremely hard on the deal. However, we have taken significant steps to keep the Coyotes in Glendale for the long term. I've seen firsthand the wonderful support Arizona hockey fans have provided the Coyotes, and we will continue our efforts to keep the NHL in Arizona."
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Arizona Republic Thursday that the team wasn't going anywhere, and the league's "objectives will remain the same."
In other words, the league still believes it can find a buyer with the necessary cash to complete a purchase of the team, and the league believes it can still make a deal with Glendale that will allow the new owner to feel comfortable with his/her purchase.
And while I'm not here to tell our friends at Five For Howling that they don't deserve a team, and I'm not here to tell any of the long-time season ticket holders for the Coyotes that they don't deserve a team, there comes a point in time where the league has to do what is right.
If there is no local buyer, the fact that Daly and Commissioner Gary Bettman have continuously pledged to keep the team there is rendered irrelevant. It doesn't mean the city doesn't want the team. Actually, the management deal that the city concocted and put to a public vote is more than enough evidence the city wants this team.
But someone has to buy it. It can't live forever as a proverbial ward of the state.
With all due respect to Coyotes supporters, how much longer are we going to go through this dance? There has to be a city where this team will attract a buyer. Not only that, but with all due respect to the good fans of Atlanta who consistently supported the Thrashers (it isn't the fault of these dedicated fans that there weren't enough of them), how can the NHL keep propping the Coyotes franchise up when it was seemingly so quick to let True North bail them out of the bad situation that was created in Atlanta?
The failures in Arizona are well-documented, and they aren't the fault of the team's loyal fans. The arena is not in an ideal location. The franchise has not succeeded on the ice, until the last couple seasons. But the Jerry Moyes saga was the start of an embarrassing run for the NHL and this organization. The league kept Moyes from selling the team to Jim Balsillie, but the argument exists it was more about Balsillie than it was about the team's viability in Arizona.
The puck is on the NHL's stick. Bettman and Daly need to either buck up, admit failure, and open the franchise up to bidders from anywhere in North America, or they need to find a stable buyer who actually has the funds necessary to complete the purchase and take over control of the team.
Status quo can not be an option anymore. Everyone involved deserves some answers for the long term.