Friday, 27 April 2012

Who Accepts The Cup?

While it's far too early to suggest that the Phoenix Coyotes are your favorites as the Western Conference Champions in the Stanley Cup Final, my brain got to thinking tonight after seeing the Coyotes beat the Predators in Game One of the Western Conference Semi-Final. As you're very aware if you've followed hockey at any point for the last couple of years, the NHL owns the Coyotes. That, of course, means that 29 other owners and the NHL itself have a 1/30th share in any success that the Coyotes have this season. If the Coyotes can knock off the Predators and then dispatch the winner of the Blues-Kings series, they are literally four wins from the Stanley Cup. As improbable as it seems, the Phoenix Coyotes - a team with no true owner - could be your Stanley Cup Champions.

Normally, Gary Bettman presents the Stanley Cup to the team captain, and the celebratory laps are done with hockey's greatest trophy. There's always a couple of moments where the coaching staff and trainers get their moments on the ice to hoist the trophy in front of friends and family. And then, of course, there are the owners who get to lift the Stanley Cup after paying the bills to ice a championship team.

So if Phoenix were to win the Stanley Cup, does that mean Gary Bettman gets his name on the Stanley Cup? Will there be 29 other owners who get their names engraved despite none of their teams winning this season? Or does Bettman and his executive team simply engrave "NHL" on the Stanley Cup where the owner's name normally goes? Or do they just forgo the owner's name altogether to save face in the event that Phoenix is bought and/or moved? Honestly, it's an unprecedented situation that not many people are considering at this point, and that's fair given how far the Coyotes still have to go. But it's still something to be considered.

I've looked through a pile of historical accounts, and I can't find one example of a league-owned team winning a championship in any of the four major sports in the modern era. Of all the recent league-owned teams, the Expos weren't close to being a World Series team while MLB owned them, and the New Orleans Hornets didn't even make the NBA playoffs this season. Clearly, the Coyotes would be one of the biggest asterisks in any record book because 29 other teams were bankrolling their players to a championship.

"In Calgary, they're helping fund us so we can compete against them," Coyotes' president and chief operating officer, Mike Nealy said to Sports Business Journal. "I'm sure sometimes they scratch their heads about that. But, in the bigger picture, what's the better alternative?"

Personally, I believe that the NHL will opt not to have an owner's name on the Stanley Cup if the Coyotes were to win the Stanley Cup due to the ethics of the situation. After all, as Nealy said above, the owners in places such as Calgary, Toronto, Columbus, Long Island, and Edmonton all contributed financially to the Coyotes winning the Stanley Cup, yet all of those teams missed the playoffs.

Don Maloney, General Manager of the Phoenix Coyotes, certainly deserves a bulk of the credit for operating on a budget that would make most GMs resign, but Maloney deserves all the credit he gets for identifying good players who will contribute in a big way for not-so-big dollars. That is a massive accomplishment when he requires league approval to add any salary to his payroll because there are 29 other owners who assume some additional fiscal responsibility every time that Phoenix does. I'm not saying Maloney is a magician, but his coaching staff, his scouting staff, and the staff in San Antonio where Phoenix had its AHL affiliate before moving to Portland, Maine all deserve a massive amount of credit for the system they have in place, the work they do with the players, and the development of some of the young talent that Phoenix has on the ice. In short, Phoenix's front office is probably one of the best in the NHL when you consider the constraints they are force to work under in their predicament.

The Coyotes are still a long way from planning a Stanley Cup parade in Glendale, but every win moves them one step closer. Does the Eastern Conference Champion team have their owner accept the Stanley Cup as owner since he owns both teams? Feel free to comment below on what you think the NHL should do if the Coyotes complete their quest!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


mtjaws said...

Firstly, the Coyotes' AHL affiliate was the Portland Pirates for 2011-12. Former affiliate San Antonio is again partnered with the Florida Panthers for this most recent season.

Secondly, now that my Panthers are out, I would love to see the Coyotes prevail this season! And to address the ownership question, I think that should be kept blank on the Cup, and let the players and staff take the glory. They are what will have earned the victories, not the NHL or the other owners (and city of Glendale) who simply facilitated their survival.

And I truly hope that even if the Coyotes don't win the Cup, they'll get to stay in the desert. Hopefully the on-ice success entices someone to pull the trigger to buy the team and keep them in AZ.

Teebz said...

I hear you on Portland, but the young guys playing with Phoenix right now got their start in San Antonio. ;o)

Anonymous said...


1. Your point about the other teams funding the Coyotes is a good one. I know you say the Expos weren't a World Series team when they were league owned, but there was one year (2003?) they were in contention into September and weren't allowed to make the usual callups when rosters expanded. The last thing the other owners wanted was for the Expos to contend.

2. If they do win the Cup, or even the finals, does that make the team unmoveable when they're finally sold? How do you move the defending champions?