UPDATE 4:55 p.m.: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will update media on the Phoenix Coyotes ownership situation at 9 p.m. ET, approximately one hour before Game 5 of the Predators-Coyotes series, as reported by ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun.
In nearby boardroom, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will be closing the sale of the team after two years of league ownership. According to reports from the Phoenix Business Journal and the Associated Press , Bettman will announce the sale of the franchise to a group led by former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison before the puck drops at Jobing.com Arena tonight.
So on the biggest hockey night in team history, the Coyotes could simultaneously win a series and secure a long-term solution to keep them in the desert — or one that would eventually move them elsewhere.
The team’s relationship with its city has gotten ugly in recent months with local politicians railing on the NHL for running Glendale through the wringer. While the league has controlled team operations for the last two seasons, the City of Glendale has been forking over up to $25 million a year to cover the team’s massive losses.
Jamison’s purchase still requires final approval from league owners and the Glendale City Council, but he has been in talks on a new lease of Jobing.com arena.
Many still expect an eventual move back to Canada — Quebec City is a viable option — or yet another non-traditional hockey market in the U.S. (Seattle and Kansas City have been discussed). But obstacles remain as the league looks to find a way to make the franchise financially viable once more.
As the AP reports, a non-profit government watchdog group called Goldwater Institute is keeping a close eye on the developments after it previously threatened to file a lawsuit over the lease agreement for Jobing.com Arena.
Back on the ice, Shane Doan, Antoine Vermette and company will look to duplicate their feat of winning the team’s first postseason series since 1987, when it was still the Winnipeg Jets. The Phoenix offense has cooled off considerably — they’ve scored only one goal in two games after combining for nine in the first two games of the series — while goalie Mike Smith has consistently been their top performer.
Smith stopped all 25 shots he saw in Friday’s Game 4, notching his second shutout this postseason, and with defenseman Rostislav Klesla suspended for boarding Nashville’s Matt Halischuk, he’ll be called upon to step up in the clutch yet again. And the Predators will try to rattle Smith by plowing into him at every opportunity.
“We’re aware it’s not going to come easy,” said Vermette, who leads the Coyotes with five goals this postseason. “We’ve been there just a couple of weeks ago. They’re going to play desperate. That’s what we saw with Chicago. You’ve got to come hard. They’re not going to give it to you.”