Gary Bettman speaks during during a press conference before a game between the Coyotes and the Lightning Nov. 16. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Call me crazy, but am I the only one who sees the latest Phoenix Coyotes situation ending badly?
Of course, this is what happens when you fight so hard for something - in this case the NHL and its fight to keep the Coyotes in the desert – that you have to do almost anything to make it look as though the battle was worth winning.
And it looks an awful lot like the NHL is doing that with its involvement in Ice Edge Holdings, the only people who seem to have even a remote interest in the notion of buying the Coyotes and keeping them long-term in Phoenix.
What makes the whole thing so disturbing is the fact the league seems willing to set a couple of very dangerous precedents here.
The first one, as has been suggested, is to throw Ice Edge Holdings a bone by giving them a full cut of revenue sharing, estimated at between $10 million and $11 million, even though the team doesn’t even come close to qualifying for it.
Where do we start with how wrong that is?
Well, let’s begin with the premise that if the league goes through with that, it will be clearly violating the collective bargaining agreement it seems to hold so dear. How does the league expect GMs to not circumvent the CBA by signing players to retirement contracts, then turn around and circumvent it themselves by giving revenue sharing money to teams that don’t deserve it?
And of course the league knows it won’t get any pushback from the NHL Players’ Association on this one because there is nobody there to do the pushing at the moment.
Secondly, what does it say to the Nashville Predators of the world, teams that are busting their tails in order to sell tickets and sign corporate sponsors so they can qualify for their full share of revenues? It’s basically telling them there is little motivation to work hard to sell because if you get into enough trouble, the league will bail you out anyway.
And finally, what does it say to the large-market teams that are cutting the revenue checks? Remember, they signed on to the revenue sharing concept in the first place on the premise teams wouldn’t take advantage of it and simply receive the money made by others as a reward for incompetence and poor management. That’s why they established qualifying criteria in the first place.
Another precedent the league might set with Ice Edge Holdings is allowing the team to play a number of regular season and playoff games in Saskatoon. Sounds like a plan hitched over a couple of beers after a pick-up game, but what if the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning see that there are a couple million dollars in gate receipts to be made and ask for the same dispensation? How could the NHL possibly turn them down?
Alas, the NHL seems prepared to hitch its hopes to this group and this city regardless of how much it has to bend over backward and seemingly sacrifice its own principles to make it work.
Sure hope the $140 million they’re getting is worth it.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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