Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Goldwater a tough customer

Zealots will not back down from anyone

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It's hard to fathom, but some parties involved in the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes fail to understand what the Goldwater Institute stands for.

Goldwater is about ideology and does not change its principles from one case to the next. It's not going to turn a blind eye and let the bank be robbed on this occasion simply because it would make things easier for some people.

It's the same philosophy day in and day out. They're zealots and can't be backed down.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman believes it's "time for the Goldwater Institute to stand down," but that's not going to happen.

"No," said Goldwater Institute CEO Darcy Olsen when that statement was put to her on Wednesday afternoon in a phone interview with the Free Press. "The Goldwater Institute has a record of protecting taxpayers from government abuse. We will absolutely defend them in this case... The more we look at this -- the more it looks like the City of Glendale has been caught with its hand in the cookie jar."

Bettman's sale of the Coyotes to Matthew Hulsizer is being held hostage by Goldwater due to the taxpayer watchdog's belief the deal between Hulsizer and the City of Glendale is illegal. Arizona state law prohibits government subsidies of private business with taxpayer dollars.

Hulsizer is set to receive $100 million from Glendale to help him with the purchase of the Coyotes. The money is to be exchanged for parking rights at Arena. Goldwater contends the city already owns those rights and is gifting Hulsizer the $100 million.

"It's been a money-losing team ever since it left Canada and Bettman is eager to find a buyer. Unfortunately, the buyer here would be the taxpayers of Arizona," said Olsen. "We have a constitutional ban on giving taxpayer money to private corps or individuals. Basically a ban on corporate welfare... Glendale has been recalcitrant in forwarding documents and only recently gave us another 600 pages in documents. We are combing through that."


"Unfortunately for the city, the more we read, the worse it looks for them."

Glendale had hoped to sell $116 million in bonds to raise the money Hulsizer needs to close the sale. Bettman says Goldwater's threat to file suit has made the bonds unsaleable to this point and has put the sale of the Coyotes in peril.

The commissioner also stated the process in Glendale cannot go on forever and if it doesn't close soon, the league will need to explore other options. It's believed a sale to True North Sports & Entertainment is at the top of that list and the team would be relocated to Winnipeg under that scenario.

WATCH WHAT YOU SAY: Coyotes winger Paul Bissonette was tweeting the other day about the prospect of coming to play in Winnipeg and how he and his teammates would be "treated like gods."

That little comment caught the eye of Coyotes coach Dave Tippett.

"If Bissonette wants to play there so bad maybe there's an AHL team he can play for," said Tippett.

Here's a hint for both men: Shut up.

No one knows how this deal is going to turn out and rash comments at this point can be twisted and later thrown in one's face. Is Tippett suggesting Winnipeg is a minor-league town? I don't know but one can read it that way. That could make for a pretty uncomfortable meeting with a new community should the team move and Tippett be introduced as Winnipeg's new bench boss.

Hey, maybe Phoenix is a nice place to live and you like it there. Good for you, we get it. But don't for a second think we here in Winnipeg aren't proud of where we live. Defensive and sensitive about it too, just in case you haven't noticed.

These are stressful times for all involved and as Winnipeggers witnessed when the Jets left town -- it's difficult for the players and coaches and staff. So we can empathize. But a little caution with one's words these days is likely a good idea.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 10, 2011 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.


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