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NHL recommits to keeping Coyotes in Phoenix area

Commissioner Gary Bettman says League believes in long-term viability of franchise

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Wednesday reaffirmed the League's commitment to keep the Arizona Coyotes in the greater Phoenix area.

Commissioner Bettman spoke following the general managers meetings, one day after he sent a letter to the Arizona Legislature saying the Coyotes can't be profitable at Gila River Arena in Glendale and lobbied for the state to pass a partnership bill known as Senate Bill 1149, which would help finance an arena for the Coyotes closer to downtown Phoenix.

The Coyotes have been playing in Glendale for 15 seasons and Commissioner Bettman wrote in his letter that throughout that time the team has sustained a "consistent economic loss."

"We are not giving up on the Coyotes in the greater Phoenix area," Commissioner Bettman said Wednesday. "The fact that the Coyotes are even having discussions about moving out of Glendale is because the city of Glendale chose to terminate the long-term agreement they had with the team. Had they not terminated that agreement, we wouldn't be having this discussion. The Coyotes are looking at the numerous options they have in the Valley, and we expect one of them to go to fruition. The purpose of the letter was: There is a bill pending, and I believe the city of Glendale was lobbying, saying if the other municipalities, the senators from those municipalities, don't approve it, then the team will have to stay in Glendale. That's not going to be the case. The team has got a number of options and is going to pursue them, so nobody should think that the team is moving other than out of Glendale. But short-term they're going to stay in Glendale, while they're pursuing the options."

Commissioner Bettman said it could take a few years for the Coyotes to pursue all of their options for a new home in the greater Phoenix area but stressed that he believes in the long-term viability of the Coyotes in Arizona.

"I'm very confident," Commissioner Bettman said. "I want to repeat we have not given up on that market, but we wanted to make clear that the long-term future and viability of that team, the Coyotes, isn't going to be in Glendale."

Commissioner Bettman stressed in his letter to the Legislature that the construction of a new arena for the Coyotes would not create any financial risk or debt for the state or make use of any existing state tax dollars. He also wrote that a new building would create 300 jobs and $75 million in annual payroll the Coyotes currently provide for the state.

In addition, Commissioner Bettman wrote that the construction of the new arena would create 2,500 jobs for two years and more than 3,600 jobs associated with the arena operations. He wrote the economic impact would be more than $600 million, nearly double the economic impact the Coyotes already bring the state.

"I think when the Coyotes get a new arena better situated, I think the team will do very, very well there, better than they have in terms of the attendance and business side," Commissioner Bettman said.

Arizona general manager John Chayka said there is a lot of evidence that shows the Coyotes are important to the market and that it's necessary for them to find a long-term solution to stay there.

"You see Auston Matthews, that type of story," Chayka said, referencing the Toronto Maple Leafs rookie center who is from Scottsdale, Arizona. "You just go to the youth hockey rinks in Arizona, you know it would be a terrible thing if we left at this point. They've invested a lot of time and effort in that market. I think moving on now wouldn't make any sense at all."

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