'Not giving up': NHL commissioner clarifies letter to legislature about the Coyotes' arena

Posted at 12:28 PM, Mar 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-08 15:00:56-05

On Tuesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman authored a letter to the Arizona state legislature with a simple message: The Arizona Coyotes cannot continue to play in Glendale, and the legislature should approve SB 1149, which would provide funding for a new arena elsewhere in the Valley.

On Wednesday, ESPN reported Bettman clarified his comments, noting that his letter to the legislature wasn't intended to imply that the Coyotes will relocate away from the Valley if SB 1149 fails to pass.

"I want to repeat we have not given up on that market, but we wanted to make clear that the long-term future and viability of that team, the Coyotes, isn't going to be in Glendale," Bettman said after a meeting with NHL general managers, according to ESPN. "The Coyotes are looking at the numerous options they have in the Valley and we expect one of them to go to fruition.

"We think it's a good market. We think circumstances have come together consistently where there has always been an issue. We wouldn't be having this conversation if Glendale didn't cancel the long-term lease."

The Coyotes have played at Gila River Arena in Glendale since the 2003-04 season but made plans to leave Glendale due to legal differences. Last year, Glendale canceled the Coyotes' 15-year arena lease, and the two sides renegotiated a much shorter lease that is set to expire after the 2018-19 season.

The Coyotes want to build another arena elsewhere in the Valley in time for the 2019-20 season. Last month, plans for a joint facility with ASU's hockey team in Tempe fell through.

If approved, SB 1149 would provide $395 in funding for a new Coyotes arena in the Valley. Coyotes ownership would contribute $170 of that funding, while the host city would pay for $55 million and the remaining $170 million would come via sales taxes.

But the bill reportedly faces stiff competition in the Arizona State Senate and the House. 

Despite the opposition, Bettman said Wednesday he's "very confident" the Coyotes will remain in the Valley for the long term.

"I believe the city of Glendale was lobbying, saying if the other municipalities -- the senators from those municipalities -- don't approve it, then the team will have to stay in Glendale. That's not going to be the case," Bettman said, according to ESPN.

"The team has got a number of options and is going to pursue them, so nobody should think that team is moving other than out of Glendale. But short term they're going to stay in Glendale while they're pursuing the options."