National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman made a poorly veiled threat to the Arizona Legislature as he tried to pressure them into coughing up over $200 million in tax payer dollars, but now one former Mayor is hitting back at Bettman.
Former Mayor of Glendale, Arizona Elaine Scruggs penned an angry response letter to Bettman this week and it's rather clear that she believes Bettman is merely trying to con the people of Arizona.
Strong emotions rushed through me as I read the recent haughty comments from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Coyotes Owner Andrew Barroway regarding their personally motivated announcement of the absolute impossibility of hockey succeeding in Glendale.
As the former Mayor of Glendale who had a front row seat for many of the City’s dealings with the NHL and the Coyotes, I cannot sit silently as they mislead the Arizona Legislature and unabashedly insult the community I love.
Scruggs appealed to the Arizona Legislature and warned them that Bettman is more than willing to talk out of both sides of his mouth if that's what it takes to get more taxpayer money.
Mr. Bettman saw a tremendous future for Coyotes hockey in Glendale BEFORE the City of Glendale and its taxpayers committed $200 million to absorb the initial cost of arena construction and full cost of infrastructure construction in 2002.
At that time, Bettman said of the arena “This is a great place for hockey, and we’re thrilled to be here.” At that same time he praised then-owner Steve Ellman and Wayne Gretzky, the Coyotes’ managing general partner, for providing stable ownership and building a playoff contender. “Everything you touch turns to gold,” he told Gretzky. Upon the venue’s opening in 2003, Bettman said “This building is a major step forward for this franchise and this franchise wouldn’t survive without it.”
If he indeed believed Glendale was unsuitable for the NHL, he did not express that opinion in 2010 as he was asking the City to partner with the league in shepherding the owner-less Coyotes through bankruptcy. That “partnership” required an annual $25 million subsidy from the City while the NHL searched for a new owner.
Scruggs disputes that the location was never the problem, but rather the NHL and the various ownership groups behind the Coyotes have never made an honest effort to produce a compelling product.
The facts are easy to verify. Before the Coyotes moved out of downtown Phoenix they ranked 29th in attendance out of the league of 30 teams. Their first year in the Glendale Arena they ranked 19th in attendance. Attendance stayed in that tier until the floundering team started losing their disappointed fans’ support.
Now the NHL and the Coyotes’ ownership group have hitched their wagons to a new scheme: Senate Bill 1149. After receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from Glendale, the NHL and Coyotes ownership are asking a much larger group of Arizona taxpayers for $225 million in public funding for another new arena.
It’s the only way to make hockey work in Arizona, they tell us (again). This is the only solution, they say; this is what will make hockey thrive.
Needless to say that Scruggs is not convinced in the least by Bettman's words and she's hoping her own words will sway the Arizona Legislature to see the NHL's commissioner for what he really is.