Sports Outside the Beltway

Bankruptcy Judge approves sale of Phoenix Coyotes to NHL

Anyone crave hockey and have 140 million dollars lying around?

The Phoenix Coyotes’ bumpy six-month journey through U.S. Bankruptcy Court has come to an end with a judge’s approval of the sale of the franchise to the NHL.

Judge Redfield T. Baum signed the order on Monday after a quiet, brief hearing in a mostly empty courtroom, a stark contrast to earlier scenes of high drama featuring countless high-priced attorneys locked in often-bitter arguments.

The NHL’s bid totals about $140 million. The official figure listed in the sale order is $128.4 million, but that does not include the $11.6 million the NHL has agreed to spend to purchase claims of nearly all the unsecured creditors in the case.- Associated Press

The NHL said it would now move quickly to complete the purchase. After that is completed, the league will look for new owners.

What part-Coyote team owner Wayne Gretzky thinks of all this is a bit of mystery. He didn’t object to the sale and could be out as much as 8.2 million dollars. I don’t think that can have a positive effect on the relationship between Gretzky and the NHL.

Now that the financial turmoil and question of where the Coyotes been temporarily shelved, are there many hockey fans left in the state of Arizona who care about the franchise?

The Phoenix Coyotes gave the Kings’ Drew Doughty an open look at the goal. He buried the chance.

Doughty scored the go-ahead goal with 4:51 remaining and Los Angeles rallied to beat the Phoenix Coyotes 5-3 Monday night.


Earlier Monday, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Redfield T. Baum approved the Coyotes’ sale to the NHL with the league intending to find a buyer committed to keeping the franchise in Glendale. The conclusion of the team’s bankruptcy proceedings didn’t help the Coyotes avoid a franchise-record low announced crowd of 5,855.

Which leaves serious doubts as to whether NHL can ever be successful in Phoenix. I think it would be wisest for the NHL to entertain bids from owners who will take the franchise to somewhere where it can flourish.


Nikolai Khabibulin notches his 300th career win

He is the 24th NHL Goalie to reach that mark. From AP-

Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin came up big in the shootout to earn a milestone victory.

A game after his goaltending gaffe led to a loss in Edmonton’s home opener, Khabibulin became just the 24th goaltender in NHL history to hit the 300 career win mark.

He stopped all three shots in the shootout as Edmonton beat the Dallas Stars 5-4 on Tuesday night. Khabibulin had a far better night than Saturday, when he lost the handle on the puck with less than a minute, a miscue that led to a Calgary goal and 4-3 loss to the rival Flames.

“That was a hard way to lose that first game so it was good to see the team rewarded tonight,” said the 36-year-old free-agent acquisition. “It’s nice to hit that milestone but right now I am just happy that we won the game. I’ll try to build on it and make sure I don’t stop at 300, I guess.”

Alan Hemsky scored the only shootout goal.

Khabibulin, who played for Chicago, Tampa, and Winnipeg/Phoenix before coming to Edmonton, may be showing his age. IMHO I think he will be a backup goalie within 2 years, as long as a NHL team doesn’t let salary dictate who should be the starting goaltender. Like what is happening in Washington.


Wayne Gretzky resigns as Phoenix Coyotes head Coach

The beginning of the 2009-10 NHL season is only a week away. From ESPN-

Wayne Gretzky’s tenure as coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, a period marked largely by on-ice futility, ended abruptly Thursday when the “Great One” announced he would be stepping down amid the financial turmoil surrounding the team.Gretzky

The Coyotes hired former Dallas Stars coach Dave Tippett hours after Gretzky announced his departure, which had been rumored as the bankruptcy court battle between Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie and the NHL over the sale of the team dragged on.

“This was a difficult decision that I’ve thought long and hard about,” Gretzky said in a statement Thursday on his Web site. “We all hoped there would be a resolution earlier this month to the Coyotes ownership situation, but the decision is taking longer than expected.

“Since both remaining bidders have made it clear that I don’t fit into their future plans, I approached general manager Don Maloney and suggested he begin looking for someone to replace me as coach. Don has worked hard and explored many options. I think he has made an excellent choice, and so now it’s time for me to step aside.”

Gretzky, who was due to make $8.5 million this season, coached the Coyotes from 2005-2009, finishing with a 143-161-24 record, and the team missed the playoffs in all four seasons. Gretzky, 48, also owns a small piece of the franchise.

The Coyotes are in turmoil because of their uncertain ownership situation. It was also reported recently that Gretzky wasn’t being paid his coach’s salary. Those are probably two reasons, and maybe the biggest ones, for his quitting.

Pierre LeBrun writes-

For the time being, at least for the Coyotes, Gretzky’s decision Thursday relieved a muddied situation. The head coach is no longer in limbo. The head coach is expected to be Dave Tippett. That brings some stability to a situation still unsettled at the ownership level.

You may argue whether or not the Coyotes are better off without Gretzky, but the NHL (for now) has lost its greatest ambassador.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Gretzky gets another shot behind a NHL bench. It probably won’t be before 2010.


Florida Panthers sign defenseman Dennis Seidenberg

Did you know it is less than 3 weeks to the start of the 2009-10 NHL season? From the Miami Herald-

The Florida Panthers picked up some defensive help Monday after signing defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to a one-year deal.

Last season with Carolina, Seidenberg scored five goals and picked up 25 assists in 70 games.

He is a German citizen who still has to get a visa to play for Florida, but he is expected to join the team later this week — most likely Wednesday in Ottawa.

In six years, Seidenberg has 14 career goals and 70 assists while playing in 295 games.

Seidenberg, who played for Philadelphia and Phoenix before coming to Carolina, is a serviceable defensemen no more. If Florida management thinks this guy and Jordan Leopold will fill the void created by the departure of Jay Bouwmeester, this NHL will continue to miss the playoffs every year far into the future.


Veteran NHL C Mike Sillinger retires

He played for 12 different teams in his career but he scored the most points for his final team, the New York Islanders. Enjoy your retirement Mike.

New York Islanders center Mike Sillinger decided two hip operations were enough.

The center who played for a record 12 teams during 17 seasons in the NHL is retiring because of an injured left hip.

“The decision was clear to me after dealing with hip surgery the last two seasons, Sillinger said during a conference call Wednesday. “If I was to come back and be a hero I’d be getting a hip replacement before I’m 40.”

The 38-year-old forward played in only seven games last season and had season-ending hip resurfacing surgery in January. In February 2008, he had a microfracture procedure on the hip that forced him to sit out the final 29 games of that season.

Sillinger spent three years with the Islanders and his 42 goals and 87 points were his most with any NHL team.

“It’s a big hole to fill,” Islanders general manager Garth Snow said. “Mike was good at many different things, whether it was putting the puck in the net or taking a faceoff.”

Sillinger was chosen No. 11 in the 1989 draft by Detroit. For his career, he had 240 goals and 308 assists in 1,049 games.

Sillinger said he’d like to stay in hockey but downplayed the notion that he might go into coaching right away.

“I’m just going to enjoy the kids for now and see what the future brings,” he said.

Besides the Islanders and Red Wings, Sillinger also suited up for Anaheim, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Florida, Ottawa, Columbus, Phoenix, St. Louis and Nashville.


NHL player Teppo Numminen retires

He played in the NHL for 20 years with 4 different clubs and was one of the last remaining Winnipeg Jets to still be active. Enjoy your retirement Teppo.

Veteran defenseman Teppo Numminen will retire after 20 seasons in the NHL.

The 41-year-old Finn was an unrestricted free agent after playing the last four seasons in Buffalo Sabres. He also had stops in Winnipeg, Phoenix and Dallas during his career.

He made the announcement Wednesday, saying “playing hockey in the NHL and also for my country, Finland, was very enjoyable.”

The three-time All-Star had 17 points in 57 games for the Sabres last season. In 1,372 career games, he recorded 117 goals and 520 assists.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with and against the best players in the world for so many years,” Numminen said.

Numminen accumulated six medals in his international hockey career with Finland, including a silver at the 2006 Turin Olympics.


Did the NHL make a mess of the 2009-10 schedule?

The upcoming schedule was released yesterday. Right away I noticed something interesting. Florida has a home and home series with Nashville.

Nov 28 and Mar 29 are when the Panthers and Predators play next season.

What I find interesting is- Florida is playing Nashville home and home for the second straight season. In 2008-09, the Panthers and Predators played on November 1st and December 23rd.

In light of the way the NHL season is set up, namely that any Eastern or Western conference team plays only play 3 home and homes in any season, Florida and Nashville shouldn’t meet home and home more than once every five years 15 western conference teams divided by 3 home and home series equals five.

Here’s a link to the 2009-10 schedule. Anyone have theories as to what happened here or am I off base?


Florida Panthers acquire C Steve Reinprecht from Phoenix

This is the second straight post season that has seen a trade between the teams. From the Sun-Sentinel-

The Panthers signed center Steve Reinprecht to a three-year contract on Friday after acquiring his exclusive negotiating rights from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for prospect Stefan Meyer.

Reinprecht (pronounced REIGN-prehkt), 33, was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

He had 14 goals and 27 assists in 73 games with the Coyotes last season and has recorded at least 40 points in five of his eight NHL seasons, including a pair of 50-plu point seasons (2002-03, 2005-06) and a Stanley Cup championship with Colorado in 2001.

Reinprecht, an Edmonton, Alberta, native, started his career with the Los Angeles Kings, and then went on to play for the Avalanche, Flames and Coyotes.

Meyer, a center/winger, had zero points in four games with the Panthers last season and had 21 goals and 19 assists in 70 games for AHL Rochester.

“Steve is a smart, high character, hard working player who fits our club’s need for a second line center,” Panthers’ general manager Randy Sexton said of Reinprecht in a statement released by the Panthers on Friday. “We are constantly looking to upgrade our team speed and he brings this to our club as part of his skill set.

Sexton is spinning this deal, and not convincingly so. Reinprecht is a career third liner. That’s what he did in Phoenix. Why would it be any different in Florida?

Florida does need a center, Nathan Horton played out of position last season. Brett McLean was almost an offensive zero in 2008-09.(19 points in 80 games) So I understand why Florida made a trade but am not confident about Reinprecht being an upgrade for Florida. I still strongly believe the Panthers need to give Shawn Matthias a chance. In 2008-09 in his limited time with Florida, Matthias was consigned to the 4th line. Behind the worthless McLean. That personnel decision never made sense to me other than Florida deciding who to play based on what player got paid the most. A good decision for business purposes, but a rotten one if you want to win hockey games.


NY Senators oppose potential Phoenix Coyote move to Canada

National politics and the NHL. How often do these two mix? From AP-

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York are opposed to the Phoenix Coyotes relocating to southern Ontario because it would have a potential “crippling” effect on the Buffalo Sabres.

In a letter sent to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday, the two Democrats sided with the league in its bid to prevent Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie from purchasing the bankrupt Coyotes and moving them to Hamilton, Ontario, located about 45 minutes west of Buffalo.

The Sabres, one of the NHL’s strongest U.S. small-market franchises, generate about 20 percent of their revenue from across the border.

The NHL has asked a bankruptcy judge to uphold the league’s right to determine who owns a franchise and where it plays.

Will the Coyotes play anywhere next year. A Ottawa Sun journalist has some serious doubts.

The judge asked the sides to report back on May 27, a week from today. I can predict with near certainty that nothing will come of that mediation. Moyes isn’t about to relinquish his apparent ownership and the NHL isn’t about to allow him to put the team into bankruptcy. Try finding middle ground there.

If it’s not bad enough that Moyes and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman have no trust in each other, the judge did say he would discuss relocation — what he called the “hot-button issue” — on June 22, more than a month from now, which was immediately followed by the NHL lawyer indicating the league would not approve the movement of a franchise for next season at such a late date.

That date all but ensures Balsillie and Hamilton are out for next season.

It could also mean the Coyotes are out for next season.

That is the difficulty the NHL must come to grips with. You can’t move the Coyotes by late June and you can’t sell tickets in Phoenix for a franchise nobody can say for certain will be there. It is a double-edged sword, with both sides stabbing at the league.

The NHL has had to step in before to keep a team afloat. It was the Ottawa Senators around 15 years ago. NHL owners will croak first before allowing Jim Balsillie, I think the same will go for keeping the franchise known as the Coyotes alive in some form or another till a suitable owner can be found.

As for Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, I understand their interest in trying to protect the Sabres. The team is a New York based business and in no way compares to this fool congressman who has a Congressional committee investigating the College bowl system.


Phoenix Coyotes gets loan from the NHL

The team has reported annual losses of thirty million dollars. From AP-

The NHL has loaned an unknown amount of money to the Phoenix Coyotes for payroll and rent payments.

The Arizona Republic reported that if the team fails to pay its debt, the league can take it over, according to financial records filed with Maricopa County Recorder’s Office.

The day after the team agreed to loan terms Feb. 24 with the NHL, it paid Glendale nearly $351,000 in overdue arena rent payments.

The loan terms give the NHL more control over the future of the struggling Coyotes, including the possible relocation of the team.

The NHL and team owner Jerry Moyes declined to comment.

Beset by annual losses reported at $30 million, Moyes is trying to sell all or part of the team.

A poor economy at present and a team owing money and can’t make ends meet. That is not a good recipe for finding a new owner or investors. Shrinkage is definitely an option for the NHL or other leagues with financially troubled franchises but I don’t expect it to happen unless the economy gets worse over the next year or so and a upturn doesn’t look likely.


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