Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

They'll need a miracle

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The next week will likely result in an announcement that either the Phoenix Coyotes are being sold and remaining in Arizona or the NHL is moving on and exploring options, such as a sale for relocation.

Here are the players involved:

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THE CORONER

Somewhere there's one of those CSI windbreakers waiting for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. He alone can determine when this sale is dead. Bettman has been checking the pulse on this deal for some time. Make no mistake -- Bettman wants the patient to get up and live but even he can't work miracles.

MEN IN WAITING

True North Sports and Entertainment partners Mark Chipman and David Thomson have the cash and wherewithal to bring Canada its seventh NHL franchise. They've played by the NHL's rules and except for letting their intentions be known, have done little talking on the matter. The strategy has played out nicely and they've been vetted by the league. Should Bettman elect to enact a relocation strategy, the deal will be theirs to make or pass on.

THE BAGMAN

Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer is willing to take the Coyotes and keep them in Glendale but his terms are costly for the Phoenix suburb. Hulsizer wants a total finance package of $197 million -- $100 million up front and $97 million over five years -- from Glendale in order to be their white knight.

THE SNIPER

The Goldwater Institute -- an Arizona taxpayer watchdog with a mission that states "the Institute develops innovative, principled solutions to pressing issues facing the states and enforces constitutionally limited government through litigation." Goldwater believes Hulsizer's demands constitute a breach of the state's gift clause, which prohibits government from funding private business with taxpayer money.

THE DUPES

Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs and selected members of her staff and city council have been squeezed and worked over on this deal from all sides. City staff and Hulsizer negotiated a deal, which Goldwater warned long ago looked illegal. Staffers and the mayor ignored Goldwater and assured the NHL and Hulsizer the institute would not be a factor.

THE SHARKS

The NHL has been actively working on putting together some financiers willing to purchase bonds floated by Glendale in order to finance their end of the purchase price. Goldwater's insistence that the deal is illegal has served to scare away investors as well as drive up the interest rate the bonds will pay. The NHL is seeking a small group of investors willing to put up about $100 million for the bonds. The risk is high but so is the yield.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 7, 2011 C1

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