NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman carefully chose his words Tuesday discussing the future of the Coyotes franchise.
“We're getting to the point where some decisions are going to have to be made,” said Bettman, who was flanked by his chief deputy Bill Daly at a press conference prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Chicago.
Bettman said the release of next season’s schedule is delayed, in part, based on the uncertainty over the Coyotes. The franchise has been owned by the league for several years, and multiple attempts to sell the franchise have fallen through. Another ownership group is attempting to finalize a deal with the Glendale, Arizona City Council, in order to keep the franchise in the desert.
“Yes, it’s certainly means it’s possible the team won’t play there next year,” said Daly. “Look, we're in the short strokes with Phoenix now."
"The ownership group that we've negotiated the deal with has been negotiating with the City of Glendale. I think the puck is in the City of Glendale's end with respect to how they're going to deal with that."
Bettman indicated the league hopes to have some clarity at its Board of Governors meeting on June 27.
He would not answer where the team could go, if no deal is struck. Many observers believe Seattle and Quebec City are likely destinations.
The team would have to play at Key Arena, which would only seat roughly 11,000 for hockey. Daly has indicated in the past that it would be a suitable short term home for a franchise.
Deborah Daoust, a spokesperson for Seattle Center and Key Arena, said Tuesday night that the ice making equipment and chilling system are still operational and have been used in the past for events like the Ice Capades and Disney on Ice. However, she said there had been no discussion, that she was aware of, concerning use for a hockey team. The arena recently freed up the dates that were held for an NBA franchise.
The Memorandum of Understanding for a new arena calls for an NBA franchise to be acquired in order to begin construction. It would likely have to be amended in order to begin construction with an NHL franchise instead. Investor Chris Hansen, said in a recent interview with KING 5, bringing hockey to Seattle first was “the city and county’s decision as much as it is Chris Hansen’s decision”.