NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman addressed speculation about the Atlanta Thrashers' ownership situation during his weekly radio show Thursday night and comparisons to the Phoenix Coyotes, who are currently under League ownership and will remain playing in Glendale, Ariz., for the 2011-12 season after extending its agreement with the city of Glendale this week.
"I think everybody needs to take a step back because I think there's been a fair amount of speculation, supposition and even hysteria in the media, which has been largely fabricated," Bettman said during the "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman.". "I wish I had a dollar for all of the reports a month ago that said the Coyotes were definitely moving and it was going to happen in a matter of days.
"I mean, people who are reporting on this stuff are simply making it up, and that's unfortunate for our fans. It's unfortunate for the fans who have a club they don't want to lose, and it's unfortunate for building up expectations in other places.
"Phoenix is a little unique compared to anywhere else because, unlike the other 29 franchises, the League happens to own Phoenix. So our involvement is much more direct and we're much more visible than we'd be simply because we're there having to supervise the operation of the club. … What happened in Phoenix, and let's be clear about this, and what may differentiate it from any other franchise anywhere else is the fact that the city of Glendale has been supporting the club last season and basically we were asked to stay for another season and the city of Glendale is paying $25 million for us to stay.
"I think in light of the fact they built the building that the team plays in, Jobing.com Arena, that they have a tremendous investment in that complex and they're prepared to invest in the team staying. Under those circumstances, I would find it hard for any sports league to pick up and move.”
Bettman said ownership is the key to the Thrashers’ situation.
"With respect to any other franchise, it comes down to ownership. It's the reason we wound up leaving Quebec City and Winnipeg. Those teams moved when nobody wanted to own a club there anymore. If you get to that position, where somebody's not prepared to own the club there anymore and you can't find a new prospective purchaser, then you're really between a rock and a hard place.
"Why did we buy Phoenix? It was an unusual circumstance; again, we were involved in litigation, the team was in bankruptcy, and the important principles of the League having the right to determine who owns the franchise and where they're located needed to be vindicated in court as they were, as the two most important rights that any sports league has.
"So in the final analysis, we know that the current ownership of the Thrashers has been trying for a long period of time to try and sell the franchise, and they haven't been able to do it. OK, so now Tuesday night the Glendale City Council, despite everybody's speculation that the team was moving, says we want to keep the team here, we vote the amount of money needed to keep them here for a year and it's done, and then immediately everybody turns their attention in the media to something else -- 'Well, therefore another club has to be moving.'
"I've gotten requests from the media by email today to confirm that we have a press conference scheduled tomorrow to make an announcement. I know somebody started that rumor. I have no press conferences scheduled for either tonight or tomorrow, and if we ever have something to announce, we'll announce it. But I really think all of this speculation is really inappropriate under all the circumstances, and it's not fair. If something happens then we'll deal with it at the time and we'll make the appropriate announcement."