Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE
The Phoenix Coyotes' road to ownership has been a bumpy one. After warming up to the idea of former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison stepping in and purchasing the Coyotes, fans were left to wonder if it was all over when his group failed to raise enough funds. But before even 24 hours had passed on the January 31 deadline, a new name was brought to the forefront, Bill Gallacher.
Greg Jamison seemed poised to take control of the league owned Phoenix Coyotes for the last couple of months now. So, when the January 31 deadline came and went without the completion of the sale to Jamison, the wind was knocked out of Coyotes fans. For many, Jamison's effort was the last strong fight to keep the team in the desert. Now, after numerous reports claiming the lack of proper funds, those reports seem to have come true, thus ending Jamison's run at buying the Coyotes. Well, that last line isn't completely true. Jamison is still in the race, or so he claims in the statement he issued. Having missed the deadline to buy the Coyotes with a sweetheart arena lease agreement in tow, Jamison's next effort may prove harder as new Glendale mayor Jerry Weiers and the city council are expected to be less giving.
But the latest twist in this whole ordeal? The emergence of two new groups interested in buying the struggling team. At a press conference held the day after the deadline, Weiers made mention of the two groups and their willingness to work with the City of Glendale and keep the team in Arizona. In reality, there is probably only one new group and Weiers is just trying to muscle the best deal out of them and Jamison (if he chooses to continue his efforts). But that's just me talking. The new group? We don't know who just yet, but Craig Morgan at FOX Sports Arizona dropped an interesting name this past Friday, Bill Gallacher.
When describing the newest Coyotes tire kicker to the Arizona Republic, City Councilman Gary Sherwood let out a few facts about the unnamed party. Deep pocketed and NHL vetted. Two things that fit the description when talking about Bill Gallacher.
Gallacher has been vetted by the NHL. Traces of his can be found on the sales of the Dallas Stars and the New Jersey Devils. While the reasons for dropping out of the race for the Stars after reaching an agreement in principle to buy the club is unknown, it was hinted that Tom Gaglardi was in better standing with the NHL. And in the world of hockey, favors carry the most pull. With the Devils, Gallacher wanted a part, if not all, of the team but majority owner Jeff Vanderbeek wasn't interested in selling the team. Vanderbeek was after partners who could help pay off the club's debt.
But Gallacher's most noteworthy characteristic? His discretion. As fans and former Research in Motion (now Blackberry in case you care) CEO Jim Balsillie learned first hand about the NHL's Board of Governors, you don't strong-arm your way into becoming an franchise owner. It took three quiet meetings and bids on the Nashville Predators, Atlanta Thrashers and the Phoenix Coyotes before Mark Chipman and TNSE wound up with a team.
Moving on to the Coyotes, Gallacher was mentioned as possibly having a hand in the investment group that Jamison led. But, if Gallacher wanted to try and take full ownership of the Coyotes, he could have easily pulled out and placed his own bid. This would back up the idea of Jamison hitting a major financial roadblock in the final days of the deal, dooming him of any chance at completing the transaction by the end of the month deadline. If that ends up being true and Gallacher makes the push to purchase the team, this may be an even better deal for the hockey fans in Arizona.
Bill Gallacher, on top of having deep pockets, has the love, dedication and background in hockey that has been proven successful in the past. Having bought the Portland Winterhawks, a Western Hockey League franchise in 2008, Gallacher made a major impact in his first year with the team. He turned a profit for the first time in franchise history, and the Winterhawks went on to make the playoffs in their last three seasons along with two consecutive appearances in the Memorial Cup Finals.
The threat of relocation is still very real and many Coyotes fans are on edge because relocation talks have indicated that the NHL may be looking at the Pacific Northwest as the likely destination for its next foot print in the U.S. The fact that Gallacher already has a hockey franchise in the Northwest (Portland, Oregon) does not ease those tensions. And it is true, Portland does house the Rose Garden arena, home of the NBA's Trail Blazers. But, Coyotes fans and Winterhawks fans have nothing to worry about if Gallacher were to purchase an NHL franchise, according to Hawks president Doug Piper
"Paul Allen and the Trail Blazers control the Rose Garden." "There's no place to come to in this market unless (Allen) lets somebody use the arena, and I can't see him doing that because an NHL team would be competition," - Doug Piper in The Oregonian cir. 2010
There are still plenty of questions still unanswered and in the coming weeks, you can expect things t0 pick up once again on the sales front.
While the future may look bleak for the hockey in desert right now, hope still lingers for the team and its fans.