The NHL Players' Association is fielding calls from players concerned about the Phoenix Coyotes crisis but is not planning to get involved yet.
"If I thought there was something the union should be doing which could affect a better result for everybody, I'm not unwilling to undertake that," NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said Wednesday. "This is a process in which the union is not essentially involved."
The sale of the Coyotes by the NHL to Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer is in jeopardy because the suburban city of Glendale, which owns the Coyotes' arena, has yet to sell $116-million (all currency U.S.) in municipal bonds. The bonds are to provide $100-million up front to Hulsizer as part of the $170-million price the NHL wants for the team but the Goldwater Institute, a public watchdog group, feels this violates an Arizona law preventing excessive public subsidies to private enterprises.
Fehr, who has ties to the Phoenix area, does not want to see the Coyotes move. "It would be great if they could figure out a way to make it work on an economically viable basis," he said.
At this point, though, he said it is a league matter even if the NHL has long maintained it is a "partner" with the players through the current collective agreement.
"The term partnership as applied to this collective bargaining agreement is … a public relations term," he said. "It is not a legal partnership so far as I understand that term. There is no joint decision-making about the operation of the industry."
There was no indication Wednesday that any progress was made in the standoff between Glendale and Goldwater.
But Darcy Olsen, president of the Goldwater Institute, fired back at NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who accused the group of blocking the sale. She said there is a simple solution – find a buyer willing to use his own money for the entire purchase.
"The NHL is negotiating a deal to sell the Dallas Stars right now, and no taxpayer money appears to be on the table," Olsen said in a statement. "The Goldwater Institute is trying to protect citizens who don't have the resources to fight city hall. We are not anxious to sue Glendale, which would be a further waste of tax dollars, but no person or city should be above the law. We hope the city will abide by the law and render further legal action unnecessary."