NHL’s Gary Bettman comes to Coyotes’ defense on new arena bid

Updated March 11, 2017 - 8:02 pm

With time running out and desperation apparently in the air, the Arizona Coyotes called on a power play specialist in their attempt to score a big deal on a new Phoenix-area arena.

Hopping over the boards was NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who knows something about exerting power.

On Tuesday, Bettman sent a strongly worded letter to the Arizona legislature urging it to pass Senate Bill 1149, which would provide $225 million in public funding on a new $395 million arena for the Coyotes.

Killing the power play were former Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs and current city manager Kevin Phelps. Both cited the Coyotes for having underperformed on the ice and that Glendale has kept its word per the agreement.

“The Coyotes’ current location in Glendale at Gila River Arena is not economically capable of supporting a successful NHL franchise,” Bettman wrote in his letter, which was addressed to state Sen. Steve Yarborough and Rep. J.D. Mesnard. “For the past 15 years, a succession of ownership groups and the league have tried everything imaginable to make the Glendale location financially sustainable. Our combined efforts all have yielded the same result —a consistent economic loss.

“The simple truth? The Arizona Coyotes must have a new arena location to succeed. The Coyotes cannot and will not remain in Glendale.”

That last sentence was in bold type.

Coyotes majority owner Andrew Barroway put things into sharper focus, saying, “While we cannot and will not stay in Glendale, we will continue to push our proposed public-private partnership until we either achieve a long-term arena solution in a more economically viable location in the valley, or we reach the point where there is simply no longer a path forward in Arizona.

“At that point, as the commissioner indicated, we will work with our partners in the league office and across the NHL to determine our next steps.”

SB 1149 calls for a special tax district to be created to fund the new arena’s construction and would be repaid by tax dollars that the arena generated.

The bill has received lukewarm response from the senate and house. Which was why Bettman took a shift on the power play.

Meanwhile, Glendale taxpayers still are paying off a $230 million debt on the arena in their community. In killing off the Bettman-Coyotes power play, Scruggs sent a letter to Yarborough and Mesnard basically refuting everything Bettman stated.

Phelps told the Arizona Republic the Coyotes pay $500,000 a year in rent in exchange for retaining all ticket, parking, merchandising and concession revenue from hockey games, as well as 80 percent of the arena naming rights, or $1.9 million a year.

Phelps added the Coyotes also get to house their corporate headquarters in the arena.

“And we are paying $13 million in arena debt payments, plus annual capital maintenance where we can spend $1 million to $2 million a year,” Phelps said. “Our frustration is starting to build a little bit.”

FANNING HOT FLAMES

Glen Gulutzan never minced words when he coached the Las Vegas Wranglers. And nothing’s changed during his tenure in Calgary.

The first-year Flames coach periodically has called out his team for lackluster play, notably on Jan. 24, when it stunk up the Bell Centre in losing 5-1 to Montreal.

Gulutzan called the effort “pathetic.” Since then, the Flames have reversed direction, winning 14 of their past 17, including nine straight, and putting themselves in prime position to land a playoff spot.

“There’s obviously playoff implications all around,” defenseman Mark Giordano said. “The points are big for us. Anytime you have these streaks, you don’t want them to end.

“It’s a good feeling, so you want to keep it going.”

The winning streak is the Flames’ longest since relocating from Atlanta in 1980.

EXPANSION UPDATE

The NHL confirmed the league’s lottery for the June 23-24 entry draft in Chicago will be April 29 in Toronto and will be televised.

The Golden Knights will have the same chances at grabbing the No. 1 pick as the team with the third-worst record. The Knights also will pick no lower than sixth in Chicago.

As of now, the unprotected lists of players of the 30 teams for the June 21 expansion draft will remain confidential. It was one of the byproducts of the general manager meetings last week in Florida.

So much for transparency.

Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Steve Carp’s weekly NHL notebook appears Sundays. Contact him at scarp@reviewjournl.com or 702-387-2913. Follow @stevecarprj on Twitter.

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