Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hey Phoenix, nice to see ya, wouldn't wanna be ya

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Hey Mayor Scruggs, hope the $50 million you've poured into the Phoenix Coyotes was worth it.

You kept your team, we got ours. It's all good.

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You get to sit in your private box and watch your team tangle with the Winnipeg Jets tonight.

Pricey tickets, for sure, but according to you, hockey is the key to economic survival in the desert. Well, we'll take your word on that because surely you and your council know what you're doing -- betting on professional sports to prop up one of the most depressed economies in the U.S.

Here we are folks, back at the scene of the crime and all the usual suspects, from Scruggs to Cactus Phil Lieberman to Ed Beasley, are still in the picture.

They continue to try and peddle the Coyotes to some rube willing to pay over $200 million for a franchise worth less than half that, while agreeing to keep the team in a place that will never work as an NHL market.

For Winnipeg hockey fans it no longer matters. The Coyotes can stay put or limp along to Quebec City or Seattle or wherever.

Less than a year ago Winnipeggers eyed the Coyotes as the team they could one day call their own, but now all the club represents is another opponent on the schedule.

Remember those frantic days? Hanging on every ridiculous decision made by the Glendale council? Watching Lieberman rant about the futility of hockey in Glendale and then flipping his vote because of a weepy kid in a jersey?

One can be sure one-time prospective buyer Matthew Hulsizer is glad to have Glendale in his rear view mirror and so should Winnipeggers.

True North was able to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers in a quick and clean deal and the NHL is back in Winnipeg. Maybe getting the Yotes and the old history of the original Jets would have had some full-circle karma, but being able to put the shenanigans of Glendale behind us, well, that's just a good thing.

I remember coming here last winter for a city council vote to approve a lease with Hulsizer that would have paved the way for his purchase of the team. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in the house and when Scruggs and Co. voted in favour of the deal it was all smiles and handshakes.

Lurking in the shadows, of course, was the Goldwater Institute, and soon afterward they'd snap the Popsicle sticks this deal was structured on. Even Sen. John McCain's threats couldn't back down Goldwater and eventually Hulsizer pulled his cash off the table and zipped over to St. Louis to grab a piece of the Blues.

Meanwhile, back in Winnipeg, the Thrashers were becoming the Jets and season tickets were becoming family heirlooms to be passed on from generation to generation.

One can't buy a season pass in Winnipeg for at least three years and even then there's a waiting list of 8,000 to contend with.

Yes, we've got our own hockey problems in Winnipeg, like a lack of scoring, so-so goaltending and no wins to date.

But we don't have to deal with the mess in the desert anymore. Or even care about it.

So enjoy the game tonight Peggers, whether you've made the journey or are tuning in from home. We've got our team, Glendale can keep theirs.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 15, 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 www.winnipegfreepress.com
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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