Phoenix Coyotes to Winnipeg: a matter of hours, Dave Naylor TSN

Alex Kozovski, James Wattie, Dave Naylor and Kyle Larkin at Centennial College journalism school March 2011

by Alex Kozovski

Walking the tightrope of lawsuits, relocation, and staying afloat in business, the Phoenix Coyotes look like they’re about to fall.  The teeter-tottering franchise, unable to find a buyer to help keep the team in Arizona, has many complications to overcome if the team is to stay.

With the unexpected entry into the issue by the Goldwater Institute, a public watchdog, the municipal bonds needed to assist prospective buyer Matthew Hulsizer, are not being sold.

If the stalemate continues, the ‘Yotes will fly over the border to become the Jets, back to where the organization began: Winnipeg.

TSN’s Dave Naylor, who is following the story closely, says that is exactly what will happen.

“I believe if that deal crumbles, we’ll see a team in Winnipeg very, very soon,” said Naylor, in an interview with Centennial College journalism students last week.

In Naylor’s view, it could happen at any time.

The Goldwater Institute’s stance is that the agreement to raise bonds for Hulsizer violates  Arizona’s law of providing excessive business subsidies for private enterprises.

“If [selling bonds] doesn’t happen, I don’t think we’re going to have any more conversations about Phoenix,” Naylor said.  “They’ll be gone.”

So what’s bad for business in the NHL south of the border could mean good things for the eager Canadian hockey market. But true expansion of the NHL?  Not now.

“Prospects of teams in Canada have more to do with the struggles in the States,” Naylor said.

He explained that the owners  for the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise have never been keen to open their turf to a possible second southern Ontario team, hence the failure of Research in Motion founder Jim Balsillie’s bid to bring Phoenix or the Pittsburgh Penguins to Hamilton. According to Naylor, the NHL operates like a drug dealer when it comes to Toronto’s lucrative hockey market: any new pretenders are quickly taken out, Naylor said, not by guns, but by legions of lawyers.

Amidst the turmoil, the Coyotes’ saga is not the only one afflicting the NHL right now. Everyone is talking about, and looking for a solution to, headshots.

With superstar Sidney Crosby missing half the regular season, Matt Cooke’s most recent antics, and the severe concussion and fractured vertebrae of Max Pacioretty, hits to the head are under the microscope.

According to Naylor, who’s written about the issue in his 2008 book he coauthored with Sportsnet The Fan 590 host Bob McCown “The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments”, a possible way to deter players from hitting the head is to punish the franchise and coach, too.

“If you want correct discipline in the NHL, stop penalizing the players only, and start penalizing organizations and the coaches in the NHL, and start fining them,” he urged.

Fining or suspended the player, especially when the player in question is a goon, who doesn’t really help the team except to enforce, doesn’t hurt the team where it counts.

Giving the example of the Islander’s brute Trevor Gillies, Naylor explained that removing him from action won’t hurt the team on the scoreboard, since Gillies is not a goal scorer.

“How valuable is he, really, to what they do?” Naylor questioned.  “The fault lies more with the organization that employs him.”

Whether it be  Phoenix, or the NHL, Naylor feels changes are coming.

New rules for headshots are on the horizon after more GM meetings in Florida, and the clock is ticking on the cash strapped Coyote’s.  Whatever happens in each circumstance, it is likely Dave Naylor will be one of the first on the story.