NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly Talks Coyotes, Other Topics
There is also interest from a second group, and, according to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, there might be a third in the wings. In an interview with FanHouse in his Manhattan office Thursday, Daly said that he just got off the phone with a third party that "expressed interest."
The second group is Research Edge LLC, a Connecticut based investment research company headed by Daryl Jones. Daly said he believes that the court will allow for some flexibility with potential bidders, "because there may need to be."
A bankruptcy court will decide Aug. 5 whether to accept one of the bids. If not, the court is likely to consider the bid by Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie, who plans to move the Coyotes to Hamilton, Ontario. The NHL believes that the Coyotes should remain in Phoenix and that the franchise can be successful in the nation's fifth largest city.
The franchise is currently operating under what Daly called very difficult circumstances. Ticket sales, marketing, scheduling, even potential staffing and personnel issues are all on hold to some extent while the ownership issues are addressed. Daly told FanHouse that the NHL would like to have an owner approved no later than July 30, "so we've got some work to do in the next week."
Daly was set to be deposed in the Phoenix case later Thursday, and Commissioner Gary Bettman also was scheduled for a deposition. "Both the commissioner and I are confident in the market," Daly said of Phoenix. "We don't think it's a market issue, per se. Things can be improved. It can be a viable franchise, which it really hasn't had an opportunity to be."
Daly also discussed some other issues with FanHouse, including the recent extension with NBC and Versus. The package continues to provide for some flexible scheduling, although during the regular season, it's unlikely that many Western Conference teams outside of Detroit will get much national love because of the 12:30 PM start times. Daly said there will be an effort to improve that this season and to increase the number of games available for the flexible portion of the TV schedule.
The league is naturally excited about this coming season's Winter Classic at Fenway Park and Daly said the level of enthusiasm seems to go up every year. There is great interest from a lot of teams in taking part in future Classics but Daly said the event is still taking "baby steps."
"We're trying to make the right decisions," he said. "The focus is on moving forward. We've ramped it up every year."
(The league wasn't able to act fast enough to get a Winter Classic into old Yankee Stadium, which is in the early stages of demolition, but the new Yankee Stadium is likely to be on any short list of future Classics, and back-to-back Cup Finalist cities Detroit and Pittsburgh must be under consideration as well.)
Daly said that the league received no negative feedback whatsoever about playing the first two games of the finals back-to-back at the end of May, and the NHL liked being able to build on the momentum of the earlier rounds.
"We thought it was successful," Daly said. "We were pleased with how the Finals got off to a strong start and it's certainly something we'd consider to continue to do in the future. I don't there there were any adverse effects on the quality of the games. Back-to-back games, guys play in them all the time."
Some concerns were expressed before the games were played, but once the series was underway, Daly said, there wasn't a peep. No questions or comments of any kind during or after.
The NHL continues to weather a poor economy fairly well, according to Daly, who cited the strong playoff attendance (all but two of 87 games were sold out, he said) and the fact that season ticket renewals for this coming season are at 82 percent right now, ahead of last year's pace.
"This a product people want to continue to consume even in a tough economy," Daly said. "The economy is a concern in every industry, but we're pretty pleased."