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NHL Bailouts are Nothing New

Many hockey fans are keeping a weary eye on the fiasco in Phoenix.  After months of back and forth between possible owners, the court, and the league, it's finally come down to this.  Should the NHL be allowed to purchase the Coyotes for a lower price than what mogul Jim Balsillie has offered?  That's up to a judge to decide. 

As Greg Wyshynski pointed out in an article on Puck Daddy yesterday, some hockey journalists are writing articles filled with contempt for the league regarding the proposed purchase offer.  And of course a lot of criticism is coming from north of the border.  While Wyshynski aptly points out positive reasoning for this specific offer, some journalists seem to have short memories regarding NHL bailouts. 

Back in 2003, the NHL stepped in with millions to keep the Buffalo franchise running.  The Sabres ownership group eventually declared bankruptcy as reported by

Before that, the NHL coughed up millions to keep the Ottawa Senators franchise afloat.  Here is a quote from then owner Rod Bryden venting his frustration as stated on

Owner Rod Bryden said he hopes the team will be able to stay in the city. But he warned that one of the deciding factors will be whether fans buy tickets. If the seats can't be filled now, while the Senators are in or near first place in the league, investors will be scared away.

"This isn't the big bad banks chasing us out of town," Bryden told a news conference. Investors simply want a fair return, and are quite willing to keep the team where it is as long as they can make a profit, he said.

The Sens also declared bankruptcy. 

The NHL got heavily involved with the Pittsburgh Penguins financial troubles and bankruptcy as well.  Apparently, several ownership groups made offers, or wanted to make offers for the franchise, but the NHL more or less dictated to the bankruptcy court that they wanted Mario Lemieux to be owner and they wanted to keep the Pens in Pittsburgh.  Does this sound familiar?

Jim Kelley of Sports Illustrated calls the offer an ugly bid and apparently feels that financial troubles are relegated to only southern teams, including Carolina. (glove tap to Vince for the link)

If Balsillie loses his bid in Phoenix and the NHL "wins" the right to absorb the debt of a failed franchise and sell it at a price likely to drive down the value of other teams, is there any reason to believe that he won't try again with another troubled franchise, say in Tampa Bay, South Florida, Carolina, Atlanta or someplace else?

Where is that coming from?

Each case is different and decisions need to be made based upon their own merits, but the concept that the NHL is making a major financial bid to keep a troubled franchise in it's current location is nothing new.  It's even happened before in Canada.