Greg Jamison awoke early Sunday to a dreary, cloud-covered day in the Bay Area. By the time he had finished a few tasks and checked his phone, the day was looking much brighter.
The NHL and NHL Players Association had come to a tentative agreement in New York, ending the 113-day lockout. Finally!
“That was my first thought,” said Jamison, who has been attempting to finalize a purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes for months. “My next was: ‘What is it? What did we sign up for?’”
Jamison hasn’t seen more than a few bullet points of the lengthy new collective bargaining agreement. Until he does, he doesn’t want to comment on the overall deal. But with that giant roadblock out of the way, Jamison plans to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly this week or early next week in an attempt to hammer out the final details of the sale.
Jamison said he and the league —- the Coyotes’ current owner —- have already agreed to a general sale price for the club (he did not name that price), but there are myriad other details still to be worked out, including securing all the investors he has assembled.
After approving a $308 million arena management deal in late November, the Glendale City Council gave Jamison until Jan. 31 to buy the team.
“I am very aware of that deadline,” Jamison said, laughing. “Hopefully we can get it done in the next two to three weeks. Barring something unforeseen, we look to get to the finish line.”
Jamison still needs approval by the NHL’s executive committee and its board of governors, but that is expected to happen, and it could happen very quickly. The Board of Governors meets Wednesday to vote on the new CBA.
Jamison has not talked to Bettman or Daly this weekend, instead taking the role of “interested spectator” as the negotiations played out in New York. When asked what specifically still needs to be done for the sale to reach fruition, he spoke only in general terms.
“Obviously, there are a whole lot of different ways to work out deals like this,” he said. “It’s just a matter of making sure they approve of the plan and the process. The league is the owner, so it’s an unusual sale from that standpoint. They have to be comfortable with the way we plan or propose to run the team.”
It’s been an arduous and long process for Jamison, whose name first surfaced in connection with the Coyotes nearly a year ago. He’s faced challenges assembling investors and securing financing, he’s faced legal road blocks from citizens groups and the ever-watchful eye of the Goldwater Institute, he’s faced the uncertainty of Glendale politics and he’s faced the uncertainty the league and players threw at him with a lockout.
After all that chaos, it might be tempting to think the rest of the process will be a downhill ride.
“One can certainly hope,” Jamison said. “It’s been an interesting process, and I’ve really had to just take it one day at a time.
“I used to run races on the track team — one mile and two miles. I remember we used to break down the road into segments, saying, ‘Let’s just get to that tree,’ and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
At times, the road has tested his patience.
“I can’t say I expected all of this,” he said. “There were times when you’d sit down and say, ‘Wow! How much longer do we have to go?’
“But I never got to a point where I thought, ‘This is enough.’ I got close a couple times — it certainly had its moments — but we stayed the course. We’re not there yet, but we’re closer than we were a few months ago.”
When and if — and yes, “if” still exists — he assumes control of the Coyotes, Jamison said the long list of big names entering the final years of their contracts will be one of his priorities. Those names include general manager Don Maloney, coach Dave Tippett and goalie Mike Smith.
With so much to do and so little time before the regular season begins, Jamison admitted that the task is daunting.
“It’s sobering when you realize just how much needs to get done,” he said. “We have some big goals. We need to move this franchise forward and make sure it doesn’t get caught up and wander off the trail here or there.”
All the same, he can’t help feeling like a kid in a candy store.
“There’s a part of me that just wants to finish this phase, because I haven’t had too much of a chance to think about the other phases,” he said. “That part is exciting because, ultimately, it will be an opportunity just to talk hockey.”