Number 99 has declared chapter 11. Wayne Gretzky’s Phoenix Coyotes are bankrupt and could be moving back to their ancestral home in Canada. (Full Disclosure: I have a Teemu Selanne Winnipeg Jets jersey that I would happily bring out of retirement if the opportunity presented itself.)
It’s obviously not an everyday occurrence for a team to be teetering on the precipice of insolvency, so to learn more, we turn to Eric Bolling, co-anchor of Happy Hour on the Fox Business Network, and a trader (and former board member) at the New York Mercantile Exchange.
SCP: First and foremost, how bad does it have to get for a professional sports franchise to go bankrupt? I was always under the impression that most of these businesses operate with the idea of losses built in.
EB: This is going to tick off hockey fans everywhere but let’s be real. I am surprised that more consolidation hasnâ€™t occurred in the NHL. Americaâ€™s big four sports are now baseball, basketball, football and Nascar. (I am an owner in the Bakersfield Fog ¦BTW)
SCP:There’s been talk that the owner of Blackberry, Jim Balsille, wants to buy the team and move them to Ontario. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says he’s not sure the other owners would approve the move. What’s your general opinion of Balsille as a businessman and as a potential NHL owner?
EB:I think ANYONE willing to buy the team should be allowed to after the usual amount of vetting by the owners. No more, no less. RIM is a successful Canadian business and I am sure Balsille will pass that test.
SCP: The Coyotes relocated from Winnipeg about a decade and a half ago. What makes anyone think they can succeed in Canada now, when they couldn’t before?
EB: Well I think this is as bad as it gets for all sports franchises. If there is a willing buyer who will support a team, great. The alternative of folding the franchise is more troubling than a move to a willing buyer/city.
SCP: The Coyotes aren’t the first professional sports franchise to struggle financially in Phoenix. The Diamondbacks had to borrow money from Major League baseball to meet payroll a few years back. Meantime, the region keeps building new arenas. Is it possible the politicians in Arizona have bitten off more than they can chew? Is it possible Phoenix just isn’t a major league town?
EB:Arena building in the middle of a recession is troubling. Costs skyrocket, and teams (like the Yankees and Mets) who build new arenas/stadiums are raising tix prices at a time when families can least afford to pay more. Perfect storm.
SCP:The NHL’s 90′s expansion into the Sunbelt is credited mainly to Wayne Gretzky’s success as an LA King. Isn’t it ironic that the first team to fail in a warm weather city is the one currently owned and coached by the Great One?
EB: I never understood the pro hockey franchise in hot cities just me but I would think it thrives in areas where kids grow up skating on ponds not surfing the beaches.
SCP: Were you shocked yesterday to hear the Dom DeLuise died? I figured he had been dead for like 10 years already.
EB: I had him in the dead pool I won! Kidding, of course.