by PuckStopsHere on 09/10/09 at 12:17 PM ET
The NHL has several markets that are in poor shape financially. The most prominent example is that of the Phoenix Coyotes, who are in bankruptcy. The team will be auctioned off very soon, with no clear end in sight to all the litigation and potential financial issues. The Tampa Bay Lightning are probably the NHL’s next serious problem. Owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie have barely had enough money to keep the team afloat. With Barrie apparently dropping out due to his financial difficulties, it leaves behind Oren Koules to run an underfunded team with declining fan support.
The Nashville Predators still have a piece of their franchise in bankruptcy. William “Boots” del Biaggio’s 27% share in the team is still in bankruptcy court as Boots has been sentenced to jail for fraud. Likely this piece will be purchased by the local Nashville owner’s, but it puts a larger financial strain upon them then they originally planned.
The New York Islanders are losing money and playing in an outdated Nassau Coliseum. They are trying to force local politicians on Long Island to approve and partially fund their Lighthouse Project which would give them a new stadium. As negotiations are not going smoothly, they are expected to push the idea that the team might relocate.
The Florida Panthers have also been a money losing franchise. Owner Alan Cohen has been trying to sell the team for years after overseeing significant losses. He agreed to sell the team to a public company called Sports Properties Acquisition Corporation. This was a public company set up specifically to buy a sports franchise. The NHL has announced that this group does not meet their standards. There is no primary investor in the Sports Properties Acquisition Group who has significant equity. It isn’t clear where money would come from to fund any financial losses that may occur. That leaves Florida with an owner who wants out and nobody viable waiting to purchase the team.
The NHL has spent the summer fighting the Phoenix Coyote situation in courts and in the media. That situation is not solved yet and may not be for a long time. There are a handful of other teams that might find themselves in financial trouble soon if things go poorly. There are potential problems ahead for many teams. In a worst case, the NHL will be unable to keep afloat multiple teams if no other solution is found. Contraction of a weak market or two is not impossible.
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