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With Coyotes Deal, Is The Clock Ticking On Thrashers' Staying In Atlanta?

Will Philips Arena lose it's second-biggest tenet next season? The Coyotes are staying in Phoenix for 2011-2012. Will Winnipeg swoop in and purchase Atlanta's team out of impatience?

The Phoenix Coyotes got a one year reprieve from rumors last night. At a little before two o'clock in the morning Eastern Time, the Glendale City Council voted to pay the NHL $25 million in operating costs to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix. This serves to get the Coyotes an extra year of time to get ownenrship worked out. Either they can find someone other than Matthew Hulsizer to purchase his team with his own money (and not $100 million of city bond money, which was the sticking point here), or Hulsizer can get funds together to secure the sale on his own.

The city of Glendale isn't directly giving money to the NHL; it is instead placing $25 million into an escrow account that is to be tapped to cover operating losses. Considering the loss of tax revenue to the city if the Coyotes were to leave via concessions, parking, and surrounding businesses, this is a fairly good deal for the city. I'm happy that the saga is delayed for another years, and their fans have a chance to enjoy hockey without quite so much of the circling of some Winnipeg vultures, at least for right now. Unfortunately, those vultures are now taking flight to a destination 1800 miles away from Arizona: Atlanta.

The resolution (for now) of the situation in Glendale undoubtedly puts pressure on the owners of the Thrashers, the Atlanta Spirit Group, to find someone to take the Thrashers off of their hands. True North, if they don't feel like waiting on Phoenix, could more than likely come in and offer up a tidy sum of cash for the team and whisk them away to a metro area a fraction of the size of Atlanta's. But stop for a second and think about this. Why would the NHL fight so much to keep a team in the 12th largest TV market and not the 8th after a large deal's just been signed with NBC? Why would Bettman let his contempt of individuals who attempted to purchase the Coyotes give him more motivation there than to keep the Thrashers put? Heaven knows he's made comments about the current Thrashers' ownership group. He doesn't seem fond of them and he's willing to put blame where it belongs.

As Phil Foley of the Examiner so rightfully points out, this should motivate the fans to let people know that we're here. E-mail Gary Bettman. Flood social media with questions and a presence - let folks know that the fans care, in spite of being treated horribly by this team's ownership. The players themselves and the individuals around the Thrashers have been a great boon to the community - tell people about that. Question why the ownership group's being so cagey in denials that investors exist. Most importantly, though - show everyone that as Thrashers fans that we exist and want hockey to stay put. Apathy never saved a team, and Phoenix fans have been nothing near such during this whole saga with their team. The Thrashers deserve as much from us. They deserve better than their "woe is me" ownership group, and heaven knows so do the fans.

At the very least, while selfish of Thrasher fans to do so, they could hope for an NFL and an NBA lockout next season. More likely than not they'll both happen - and hopefully the Atlanta Spirit's smart enough to realize that losing BOTH of their sports teams as tenants in Philips Arena isn't good money sense. Also, raised revenue thanks to the fact that the Thrashers will be literally the only professional sports ticket in town between October and the end of March is a distinct possibility. 

Heck, the e-mail was sent out to season ticket holders today for the Select-a-Seat coming up on May 21st - nothing was said about moving the location to Winnipeg, and no one offered me plane fair. I take this as a good sign. It's not all on the Coyotes, it's the ownership.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.