Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nothing but questions remain in wake of Coyotes’ fiasco

Note: This column appears in the 5/14 issue of The Glendale Star and the 5/15 issue of the Peoria Times

I have been trying to figure out this whole Coyotes mess for the past week or so. And, at the risk of disappointing you, the loyal reader…I have not figured it out.

This is probably because I have always had difficulty comprehending bankruptcy. For the first twenty years of my life, my only familiarity with bankruptcy came from Wheel of Fortune, so I imagined that, in real life, when someone went bankrupt, it was followed by an unfortunate trumpet noise –- wa, wa, waaaaooonnnk –- and that person lost everything and started over.

So to discover that the owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, Jerry Moyes, had filed for bankruptcy, yet was attempting to sell the franchise so that he could walk away virtually unscathed, I was confused.

The red tape involved is too much for me, especially considering the NHL was one of Moyes’ creditors, and it is in the league’s best interest to keep the team here in Glendale. There’s just too much stuff going on here that I am not well-versed in -– one of those “things” being hockey itself -– to forge an opinion. However, as someone who greatly enjoyed attending Coyotes’ games, and as a Peoria resident and someone who works in Glendale, and as someone who is trying to figure out where the city, and Westgate, and professional sports in the Valley go from here, I wanted to retrace some Coyote footprints, so to speak.

And something did stick out to me while reading up on the situation. If the team is indeed sold to a prospective buyer who plans to move the team to Canada, head coach Wayne Gretzky will make $22.5 million. This is the sum of what the Coyotes still owe him to coach their hockey team, so he will get this money either way. From a bankrupt franchise. Even though he is a minority owner of said bankrupt franchise.

Something else interesting in local sports happened last week. Bob Melvin was fired as manager of the Diamondbacks. Melvin –- who was Manager of the Year in 2007 for leading the D-Backs to the NLCS –- was let go for overseeing a team of guys that, for the past season and a quarter, could not hit a baseball. Whether the D-Backs’ woes should have been contributed to Melvin remains up for debate. The point is: they were.

Contrast that with Gretzky. During his four-year tenure as coach of the Coyotes, Gretzky has a losing record and has never made the playoffs. The biggest national news he made was when he became embroiled in a gambling controversy with then assistant Coyotes’ coach Rick Tocchet. The allure of fans coming out to watch The Great One stand behind his players for a couple of hours either wore off, or was never there, as evidenced by the Coyotes having the worst ticket sales in the NHL for the past two seasons.

A Manager of the Year gets ousted, but The Great One –- with his reputation as a player transcending all else, including logic -- still stands behind his crumbling team.

Hmmm.

From here, it looks like Wayne Gretzky is going down with this ship, partly because he lowered the anchor into the middle of it, and partly because the ship owes him $22.5 million.

So I have to ask: Who made him captain anyway?

It doesn’t really matter now. Everybody involved seems to be walking away with millions. Except, that is, Coyotes’ fans, who may just walk away teamless. Sorry ‘Yotes fans –- guess you don’t know how to play the wheel of fortune.

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