A new hope: Could Coyotes’ uncertainty mean hockey in Seattle?
If Tuesday’s news that Arizona might lose its hockey team reignited a conversation about Seattle getting its own NHL team, then Wednesday’s news has that conversation roaring.
Just two years after establishing a 15-year lease with the Arizona Coyotes, the City of Glendale decided to terminate that agreement with the hockey team. Glendale’s city council voted 5-2 to terminate the lease in front of a council chamber filled with Coyotes fans howling for the lease to remain.
But with the lease termination, the future of the Coyotes is uncertain.
There has been previous interest in bringing the Coyotes to Seattle. Connecticut investor Ray Bartoszek had aims to purchase the hockey team and move it to Seattle, before the Coyotes sealed a deal in 2013 with Glendale. That lease was approved by only one council vote.
Since then, Bartoszek has moved forward on a privately financed deal to build a new arena in the City of Tukwila.
Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers voted to kill the lease, and didn’t give any details as to what will happen with the Arizona hockey team.
“I hope and pray that there is some solution to keeping the Coyotes here, but if not then I guess we’ll figure out what happens in the future,” Weiers told the press after the meeting.
Weiers also told ESPN that all the information about the decision is not publicly known, and once they were, people would understand.
The council reportedly were motivated to cancel the agreement because of a state regulation that allows contracts to be broken if an employee of one party becomes an employee of the other. The city’s former attorney reportedly left Glendale to work for the Coyotes. Glendale’s agreement has the city paying $15 million dollars a year to the team’s owners for operation of the arena where the Coyotes play.
According to the Coyote’s lawyer, the lease termination won’t kick the team out of town right away. Attorney Nate Wood plans legal action, and has said the team will file for injunctive relief and a temporary restraining order, as well as file a $200 million lawsuit against the City of Glendale.
“What we have witnessed here tonight is possibly the most shameful exhibition of government I have ever witnessed,” Coyotes Co-Owner, President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said. “The citizens of Glendale should be very concerned about the government that they have leading them right now, because this was not appropriate. We have been absolutely wronged this evening by a group that is acting in incredibly bad faith.”
“Our view is the team will remain here, but the city is not acting in a business-friendly way and should be ashamed,” he said.
There was little time between when fans and the team became aware that the council was reconsidering the lease, and the vote. The city released the council’s Wednesday night agenda the previous day.
The agenda item came as a shock to Coyote officials, who released a statement on their websiteTuesday night, disapproving of the council move.
“This action by the City of Glendale is completely ludicrous, especially in light of the fact that myself and Andrew Barroway visited with the city yesterday and the particulars of this were never raised,” LeBlanc wrote on the Coyote’s website.
“In fact, we to this moment have not been advised of this other than the notification on the city website,” LeBlanc said. “The City of Glendale is displaying a complete lack of good faith, business acumen or an understanding of a business partnership. We want to reassure our great fans that the Arizona Coyotes are committed to Glendale and playing at Gila River Arena.”
Shortly after the council agenda was released Tuesday, Wood, the Coyotes’ attorney, released this statement:
“This is a blatant attempt to renege on a valid contract that was negotiated fairly and in good faith and in compliance with all laws and procedures. In the event the City Council initiates any action to revoke, repeal or otherwise rescind the agreement, the Coyotes will immediately take all actions available to them under the law against the City of Glendale.”
Local support for a new Seattle sports team has been growing ever since the community lost the SuperSonics to Oklahoma in 2008. Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen has since attempted to bring an NBA team back to the city, and has targeted Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood for a new arena. Hansen has said that his arena would be home to a basketball or hockey team.
Seattle is not alone in its hope for an NHL team. Quebec and Las Vegas have long been reported as potential destinations if the Coyotes to relocate.