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Bettman: No guarantees Coyotes will stay in Phoenix

Phoenix CoyotesWhile there’s interest among investors to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman admits the team could be headed out of Glendale after the season unless a deal is struck.

In his weekly radio show, Bettman reported there were three potential buyers of the Coyotes, owned by the NHL since 2009 after going through a bankruptcy. We already know about groups headed by former San Jose Sharks President/CEO Greg Jamison and Chicago White Sox/Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

The big issue with the Coyotes: how the team will ever make money in Jobing.com Arena. The past two seasons the team has received $25 million in direct subsidies from the city of Glendale, but that can’t continue: the city is being dinged by the bond market for current arena subsidies, and it’s clear that strategy not sustainable. Add to that the price tag of $170 million stuck on the team by the NHL, which seems to be pretty hefty for a distressed property. (To put it in perspective: the St. Louis Blues, a team in much better shape, sold recently for $185 million).

In any case, we’re already almost to February and the team has not been sold. The NHL doesn’t really have time to go through a gimicky sale like the one Matthew Hulsizer was pursuing — he basically wanted Glendale to pay him to buy the franchise, as did Reinsdorf earlier — and many are skeptical about the long-term potential of the NHL in Phoenix, in any case. It should make for an interesting offseason: is the team better off under NHL control in 2012-2013 drawing 11,633 fans a game — as is the case now, good for dead last in NHL attendance — or playing in a smaller market like Quebec, where there’s the potential for a much more passionate fan base?

RELATED STORIES: Glendale to spend $25M on Coyotes in ’11-’12 — and maybe for next decade; Glendale ready to commit $25M to keep Coyotes in town for next season; Goldwater Institute: We still oppose Coyotes lease; Is Hulsizer’s Coyotes deal collapsing?; Glendale approves Coyotes lease; Could lawsuit sink Glendale arena deal?; Glendale proposal: pay Hulsizer $197M to run $170M team

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