NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated his firm stance about the Phoenix Coyotes remaining in Arizona on Thursday during his weekly "NHL Hour on XM" radio show. In response to a caller's question, Bettman said, "We think all of our current markets, with the right ownership and right management, can support their franchises."
Bettman added the League "has a history of fixing problems and trying not to abandon markets."
The Commissioner said he anticipates that some people "will point to Winnipeg and Quebec City" to dispute his statements, but noted that in both of those cases there was no prospect of a new building and "we couldn't find anybody who wanted to own the teams there."
Bettman and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly both have said recently there are potential local ownership options for the Coyotes that would keep the franchise in Glendale, Ariz.
"Relocation is a last resort," Bettman said. "We are not looking to relocate right now. What's going on in Phoenix has nothing to do with Ontario. With all due respect to our great fans [in Ontario], this isn't about trying to deprive you of a team. This is first and foremost about fixing problems in Phoenix and the enforcement of the League's rules and procedures."
The commissioner provided more insights during his weekly show, which airs on NHL.com every Thursday from 4 to 5 p.m. ET.
"Ripping a franchise out of one city in violation of League rules and procedures to put it somewhere else isn't the way we do business," Bettman said. "We owe our fans better than that."
Bettman said franchises that were moved earlier in his tenure as Commissioner were relocated because "we had absolutely no alternatives." He pointed to Edmonton as a situation that was stabilized with a local ownership alternative.
"The Oilers actually stayed in Edmonton for less money than at the time Les Alexander was prepared to pay for the team in Houston," he said.
Bettman hosted his show from Detroit's Joe Louis Arena three hours before the hometown Red Wings played Game 7 of their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Anaheim Ducks. He recalled while looking upon the "ice at Joe" when the team drew 8,000 fans per game and raffled off a car to promote ticket sales. Thursday night's game was a sellout and a hot ticket in all circles.
"If you run out on a city when it's having problems and don't try to fix them," Bettman said, "it sends a terrible, terrible message to all of your fans everywhere because why should [those fans] have to worry they could be next?"