Hope, worry on collision course for Coyotes

If you’re a Coyotes fan, you’re immune to disappointment. Your well of hope runs deeper than Jim Balsillie’s pockets – the old ones. You react to deadlines like Bain Capital reacts to dips in the market. You boast more patience than Mahatma Gandhi.

But how will you react if the sale of this club is not completed in the next 10 days? How will you react if your first taste of postseason success is followed by an owner-imposed lockout on Sept. 15? How will you react if captain Shane Doan finally walks away from the only franchise he’s ever known because he has to sign a contract under the current collective bargaining agreement, not knowing what the new one will bring?

Will you stay, or will you finally have had enough?

It’s been a long, hard road for hockey in the Valley. We waited a decade and a half for our first playoff series win. Ditto for our first division title. We’ve had too many owners, too many bad management decisions, too many underachieving or over-the-hill players and too few sold-out buildings.

Now that we’ve finally got the right mix of a savvy GM, a capable and demanding coaching staff and players who regularly beat the odds, is someone really going to rip the rug out from under us?  

There are still plenty of signs of hope, if that’s your thing. A citizen referendum challenging the arena lease agreement was quashed. Prospective owner Greg Jamison says he has the necessary funds to buy the team. Doan’s agent, Terry Bross, has waited beyond all reason for that deal to be finalized because his client wants to play for this club far more than he wants to play for any other. And just today, the CBC’s Ron MacLean offered a definitive opinion that there will be no lockout.

But there are also causes for concern. The league and the NHL Players’ Association broke off talks, with no more scheduled before the CBA expires on Sept. 15. It would be beyond absurd if a team the league has fought for years to keep in Phoenix wound up failing because the league imposed a lockout, no?

But that’s not the only potential issue. The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled recently that an initiative to reverse a sales-tax hike expected to help Glendale cover its bills — including next year’s $17 million arena-management fee — should appear on the November ballot. The city has asked the state Supreme Court to weigh in.

With that potential revenue stream lost, Glendale now says it wants to tweak its 20-year, $324 million deal with Jamison.

Finally, Bross admitted Tuesday that the Sept. 15 deadline he set earlier for getting Doan signed somewhere isn’t quite accurate.

“I don’t think we’ll wait until the 11th hour or the last day,” Bross said. “We’ll have to get it done a little sooner than that.”

Bross wouldn’t say how much sooner, but the clock is clearly ticking, and there are hurdles yet to cross.

Everyone – Bross, Coyotes general manager Don Maloney, Jamison, the league and the City of Glendale — remains optimistic. Optimism is good PR. Optimism is good for business.

But dare we say the final hour is finally approaching on this 15-year hockey experiment? The dominoes are about to start falling. If Doan leaves and a lockout ensues, will there be enough love left to save hockey in the desert?

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