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Hockey Strangelove or: How I Learned to Spite the NHL and Love the Coyotes

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 03:  General view of action between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Phoenix Coyotes during the NHL game at Arena on December 3, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 03: General view of action between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Phoenix Coyotes during the NHL game at Arena on December 3, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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It's not controversial to say that the NHL Board of Governors have never been the best stewards of hockey. They've made poor decisions on expansion, player salaries, player safety, television, Colin Campbell's employment, and the growth of the game, which have never been about the game's health. Their decisions have always been about the short-term bottom line. And while I don't hold profits against any businessman, the focus on the short-term at the expense of the long-term has been poor tacking in recent years. Recent financial collapses in the EU and US show that they are not unique businessmen in this regard. On top of that, they've got a Gríma Wormtongue-like commissioner who utilizes a patented mealy-mouthed approach to every interview and decision. To call the NHL poorly-run is to give the league effusive praise.

This, mind you is a group that currently owns a franchise which they are running at a loss, the Phoenix Coyotes, a "purchase" the BOG forced upon themselves after a series of baffling decisions made with regard to the Phoenix franchise over the course of 18 months. Their machinations added to an already difficult task of selling the team and in fact, the negotiations to sell the team to Jerry Reinsdorf and Matt Hulsizer were harmed by the BOG's own doing. They used the passion of Winnipeg fans as a heavy-handed message in their negotiations and ended up simply toying with those fans and their emotions in the end. Now that they run the Coyotes, they've left the team, the City of Glendale and Coyotes' fans in an indefinite limbo with no owner and no short-term prospects for an owner.

The situation becomes even more ridiculous when the next move is considered. Not only is the BOG stuck in limbo, they're stuck in limbo without their trusty Winnipeg guillotine in their back pockets. It was the specter of giving the team to Ice Edge Holdings that allowed the league to blackmail Glendale into covering $25 million in ongoing operating losses while the BOG searches for an owner. By removing the Winnipeg threat, they've lost their leverage in future dealings. Now they must wait for the completion of a new arena in Seattle, the Greater Toronto Area, or Quebec before they get their leverage back. Of course, they could always sell to a Kansas City owner with even less leverage in lease negotiations to occupy the government-owned Arena.

If the Coyotes' bankruptcy filings are a decent guideline, the team will lose much more than the $25 million Glendale is covering for the BOG. And while there has been no official word of an operating cap, the Coyotes were $8 million under the cap last season and are currently $11 million under the cap - the BOG's ownership and unspoken internal cap keeps the Coyotes from being fully competitive. So the BOG sits and waits and loses more money. And all the while, the franchise loses value. With no competition for ownership and no short-term relocation destination, prospective owners can hammer away at the BOG during negotiations. The BOG has managed to and continues to greatly devalue their own asset.

What's my takeaway from all of this? I'm left feeling vindictive towards the league. I'm tired of watching the league make one short-sighted decision after another. I'm annoyed with the owners for constantly sending Gary Bettman or Bill Daly out to do their bidding and take the fall, while behind the scenes, the BOG rakes in piles of money at the expense of the game. I'm fed up with the league's inability to come to grips with and deal with their prior mistakes and no longer flabbergasted when the BOG creates compound bad decisions. I want them to boil in their own stew.

What's the best way to boil a group of billionaires? Have all of their schemes fall through.

If the Edmonton Oilers have no chance at a Stanley Cup, I want the Phoenix Coyotes to win it. I want to watch Coyotes fans fill the arena for two months while the league sells a "hockey won't work in the desert" spiel to tire-kicking owners with relocation in mind. I want overtime games to keep Phoenix kids up until 1 AM while distraught moms wish for a game-ending goal. I want desperation hockey to create lifelong, frothing-at-the-mouth Coyotes fans. I want Bruce Halle, Peter Sperling or Bennett Dorrance to catch a game seven and find it so compelling that they're forced to buy the team and keep them in the desert. I want the NHL to try to relocate a defending league champion coming off of a run like that and talk about a commitment to growing the game at the same time. Yes, all of that means money going to the league, but Glendale is covering the first $25 million in losses anyway, so the money would lessen the blow to the community, not line the pockets of the BOG.

For Phoenix fans, the ideal run to the cup would include series wins over the hated Ducks, the reviled Red Wings and a Stanley Cup victory in the newly-minted Coyotes-Jets rivalry. Alas, this will not happen this season and cannot happen after realignment. But we can still root for the Coyotes to make a deep run into the playoffs, fill Arena to the rafters, and take the Stanley Cup to Arizona for the summer.

When you finally believe the Edmonton Oilers no longer have a chance at the playoffs (without a trade for a defender, they don't), and want to root for both a small-town, feel-good story AND screw over the NHL Board of Governors, find it in your heart to root for the Phoenix Coyotes, even if it's only for spite.