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To Winnipeg

April 15, 2011

Newest home for the NHL?

Okay, I trust Ken Campbell. He may have his critics, but it seems any prominent writer in the hockey world always will. He writes for the Hockey News, which I inherently trust as a benchmark source of news. It’s not drivel on Twitter or even TSN. There’s some semblance of sanity and neutrality.

But today he unleashed the bombshell. That the deal to send the Coyotes back to Winnipeg is nearly a done deal. He even explains the terms of the deal and roughly when it will happen. This saga has gone on long enough that I know not to treat it as gospel, for something may easily come up (ie, a last minute buyer in the Phoenix-area?). But for the first time, after the media outbreak a few days ago and despite Bill Daly’s calming words, this seems like it might happen. Meanwhile, the Coyotes will be playing game two of their series against the Red Wings tomorrow. It must be a strange sensation for those players, not knowing the fate of the team once their postseason ends.

But first, some questions, because there are many…

1) Exactly to whom will the proceeds of the sale to go? Back to the NHL? Will it be then redistributed among teams who essentially kept the Coyotes afloat? I know it’s not exactly that fungible,  the money from this sale, but, I’d like to know. Perhaps it’s going to cover debts? If so, how much debt are the Coyotes in exactly? Does anyone know?

2) The stupid question, but, which division will the team join if in Winnipeg? I’d peg them to leave the Pacific (naturally, and if you think about it, did it make that much sense in the first place to call it “Pacific?) and join the Northwest, with Vancouver assuming their spot in the Pacific. Yes, yes, yes, this makes the Northwest an extremely weak division, a division mostly in a state of rebuilding or one form of stagnation or weakness as of late. But, it will surely be resurgent in the coming years. Plus, it makes more sense for the travel schedule, though perhaps it’s not as great for Vancouver. New rivalries between the Canadian teams in the division will surely take hold.

3) What will the free-agents do? Will they go? People have talked about how much players enjoy going to practice in shorts and a tee-shirt, and with average winter temperatures in the negatives for lows and in the single digits for highs, suffice to say it will be different. And people have built homes, established families, in Arizona. But this is Canada, you say. Home of hockey, place of enthralled media and sold-out arenas night after night. This won’t be like Phoenix, this will be better. That may be true, but perhaps some of the team will be looking for a new start. Then again, a move to Winnipeg is as new a start as any. It might be very appealing, actually. From all reports, this is a highly-bonded team–one that has come together and taken solace collectively in their teams woes. It seems it’s strengthened them as a group. So maybe no one will bail out. That said, according to CapGeek, Ilya Bryzgalov, Ed Jovanovski and Radim Vrbata are three notables that will be up for unrestricted free agency July 1. Keith Yandle, Lauri Korpikoski and Kyle Turris will all be restricted free agents. These are not insignificant players. And it will be interesting to see how new ownership, potentially new management, will handle this.

So many questions, so little time.

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