Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs is hopping mad at the NHL over the $25-million (all currency U.S.) that is due from the city May 2 to cover part of the Phoenix Coyotes losses this season and wants to play tough with the league.
In addition to blasting the NHL during a budget meeting Tuesday, the mayor asked her colleagues on city council to petition NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to return most of the $20-million that is currently in an escrow account for the May 2 payment. The city did not have enough money to put all of the $25-million it promised the NHL in the account and Scruggs indicated it still does not have the shortfall of $5-million.
The money is desperately needed to help cover a potential budget deficit of $30-million. In any event, Scruggs said, the money should be the NHL’s problem because the league did not play straight with the city about its prospects of selling the Coyotes.
“It’s their problem, they misled us and they can’t do this to our city,” Scruggs said, adding later that, “They have been in control of this process for the entire time. They have led us to this terrible point we’re at today.”
Originally, Scruggs wanted to simply withdraw the $20-million from the account but she was not aware until recently that the city did not have control of the escrow account. It needs the NHL’s permission to take the money out. This also fuelled the mayor’s anger and she now wants to ask Bettman to take $5-million from the account, give the $15-million balance back to the city and work out a repayment plan.
After much prodding from Scruggs, Glendale city manager Ed Beasley passed on Scruggs’s request to Bettman. Beasley told Scruggs Bettman took the request “under advisement.”
But if the NHL rejects the request, which Scruggs wants to be made formally in a letter signed by herself and the six council members, it could mean the Coyotes will finally move to another city. While Bettman has said the league, which owns the Coyotes, are negotiating with more than one prospective buyer, Scruggs said in Tuesday’s meeting that no deal is in sight.
The mayor said her anger at the NHL springs from several years of negotiations over the Coyotes, which the league bought out of bankruptcy in October, 2009. Scruggs said she isn’t sure the NHL will agree to her request to return Glendale’s money but wondered if it might because she thinks the league is poised to move the team.
“Is there any reason they feel sorry for little Glendale?” Scruggs said. “Maybe not but maybe there is because they want to take the team someplace else.
“Maybe some places should know what they’re getting involved in when they get involved with the NHL. This is what I know based on how long we’ve been fiddling around with [the NHL].”
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said recently the league’s priority is to keep the Coyotes in Glendale. However, he admitted the time is coming for a decision since a 2012-13 schedule needs to be released and whoever buys the Coyotes will need time to make the move.
One year ago, the NHL told city council it was close to selling the Coyotes to Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer. Mayor Scruggs said the only reason she and the majority of the council members voted one year ago to provide $25-million to the NHL for a second consecutive year to cover part of the team’s losses was that NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told council the city’s money would not be at risk because the new owner would eventually cover all the losses.