After four long years, the NHL has finally washed its hands of the Phoenix Coyotes. The league's Board of Governors officially approved the $170 million purchase of the franchise by IceArizona on Monday.
By finalizing the sale by Monday's deadline, the group will meet the requirements of the arena lease agreement with the City of Glendale. This will pay IceArizona $225 million over the next 15 years. By most accounts, the lease agreement was the key component to the franchise being sold. While the situation isn't completely resolved given the controversial out-clause IceArizona had written into its deal with Glendale, the tumultuous environment the team had previously operated under has at least settled for the near future.
The NHL took over operational control of the franchise in 2009 after former owner Jerry Moyes filed for bankruptcy. This resulted in the club having stiff budgetary limits, which hampered management's pursuit in acquiring talent. The team's uncertain future likely didn't help in that area, either. While the depth of IceArizona's pockets has yet to be determined, the NHL is projecting that stabilized ownership will help develop the team's roots in the desert. To that end, the club is also planning to re-brand itself as the Arizona Coyotes for the 2014-15 season in an effort to placate to the entirety of the state.
On a surface level, the franchise is in a position to develop. The club's management structure was solidified this summer, which included contract extensions for general manager Don Maloney, assistant general manager Brad Treliving and head coach Dave Tippett. This group has been credited with sustaining a flailing franchise under a shoestring budget. Many are optimistic about what they could achieve with more resources, which potentially could be boosted by IceArizona's partnership with Global Spectrum to operate the arena and attract additional events.
On a speculative level, it remains to be seen if the Coyotes future is on track or is merely an instance of kicking the can further down the road. IceArizona is able to get out of its deal with Glendale after five years if the group incurs losses exceeding $50 million. That time frame lines up favorably for the group, as several locations are laying the groundwork for arena development. Kansas City, Las Vegas, Markham, Portland, Quebec City and Seattle have all been mentioned as potential future centers of NHL-caliber facilities.
Of course, if the franchise reaches the potential the NHL has projected, those cities will become the focus of expansion and not relocation.
Ultimately, Monday is a celebratory day for Coyotes fans as they will be able to continue enjoying NHL hockey in Glendale. The last few years have been frustrating and the onslaught of negativity has surely taken its toll. While the future isn't completely solidified yet, fan support in concert with sound operational decisions by IceArizona can help fortify professional hockey in the desert.