Saturday, July 20, 2013

Remembering Jessi

One year ago today was the longest and roughest day of my life.  Up until July, 20th 2012, I thankfully never knew anyone involved in a mass shooting or major catastrophe.  I guess I was naive in thinking it wouldn't happen to me and then it did.  I woke up that morning and do what I always do, check my Twitter feed for the latest news and information before heading into work.  What I saw I couldn't believe.  My friend Jessica Ghawi (Redfield) was gunned down in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.  I didn't know what to do or say at that moment.  My heart sank and I lost my breath a little trying to make sense of something so senseless.  All day she was the face of this shooting.  CNN, Fox News, etc all started to tell her story, which in a way was comforting but was also too much to take at the same time.  Let me tell you about my short time with Jessica.

Jess was just starting out, fresh out of college and so desperately wanted to be in the world of sports broadcasting.  She had that drive and determination to make it and wouldn't take no for an answer.  When I first was introduced to this beautiful, Texas redhead was via email.  She covered the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL, that happened to be the affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes.  We exchanged emails and tweets often, mostly about players coming up to Phoenix and going back down.  We'd trade information on how the guys were doing, pretty much helping each other out.  I think she became a Coyotes fan because of the interaction not only with me but a host of others and would have our backs during the beginnings of the ownership mess.  Her and I talked a lot about that in the early stages of it.  She then moved to Denver and started doing everything.  Even if it was to tag along and hold a mic cord, she did it.  Jess made a lot of friends in the media there and touched so many people.  She is the definition of hard work pays off as she was starting to become what she always wanted to be professionally. 

One event I can't shake is the fact she escaped a shooting in Toronto just months prior to the events in Aurora.  I was watching it unfold in CNN when she started to tweet she was in that very same mall.  I, along with others, helped her get to safety as authorities there get things under control.  She was shaken, as most of us would be, by the situation and I was glad to help get her to a safe place.  She later blogged about the events of that day in Toronto.

Then, a year ago overnight.  She wanted to see the first showing of The Dark Night at a theater in Aurora.  Some of her last Tweets before the shooting, she basically taunted everyone, ok writer Jesse Spector, that she was seeing the movie and YOU weren't.  Again, fiery, lovable, funny Texas redhead that she was all the way until the end.  A short time later she was gone. 

Much has been made about how to avoid these terrorist-style events and there have been a couple since the Aurora tragedy.  The school shooting in Connecticut and the bombing at the Boston Marathon come to mind.  As with most cases, it's turned political.  Too many guns, not enough guns, guns in the hands of crazy people all just words coming out of mouths.  Is there a way to stop this kind of violence?  I don't know.  I think both sides of the issue have their points and their problems.  I am pretty sure on this though, these things will continue regardless.  I truly believe there is no way of stopping this, I'm sorry to say.  I just hope I don't ever have to go through the emotion of losing someone in events like this again.

Jess, I miss you and think about you often.  Even know I've been in this business for over 20 years now, you are still an inspiration to me and you fuel my drive to get better each and every day and I thank you for that gift. 

I leave you with a smile.  The video i'm posting is an interview she did while in San Antonio with Coyotes defenseman Chris Summers.  Okay, it isn't an interview more than it is a gag reel of her.  Heels on ice Jess, c'mon girl what did you think would happen..;)

Thanks and rest in peace my dear friend.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

It's Over!!!!!

I couldn't have picked a perfect time to do a new blog than the day after the Phoenix Coyotes have new owners.  Members of IceArizona Inc., consisting of very smart, shrewd businessmen, is in the final processes of finalizing a deal with the City of Glendale for a lease agreement for Arena. By the end of July, or 1st of August, they will get the keys to the Coyotes and Jobing.  So, how did we get here.  I'll try to be short. 

Over four years ago, the Coyotes were put into bankruptcy by local businessman Jerry Moyes, as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was en route to Phoenix.  Bettman was trying to finish a deal so the team would be owned by Jerry Reinsdorf.  When Moyes got wind of it, he put it into bankruptcy so his Canadian buddy, then Blackberry CEO Jim Ballsilie could buy it out of bankruptcy.  Bettman was ticked off.  Ballsilie has tried to push his way into ownership for years, which upsets the NHL.  So, Bettman instructed the league to buy the team.  Four years later they still do. 

First prospective owner was Matthew Hulsizer.  He crafted a deal with the City of Glendale to buy the team and the city would sell bonds to provide 100-million dollars to Hulsizer.  The city agreed to do it, BUT..then in stepped Goldwater Institute, a political action group..kinda.  They threatened to sue, which changed the interest rate on the bonds.  They did enough damage to where the deal collapsed.  Out goes Hulsizer.  Next:

Up steps Greg Jamison, a guy who understands hockey and had success in San Jose with the Sharks.  This attempt at buying the team had so many changes it was amazing.  Investors in, investors out.  This story changed so much it almost was a different angle daily.  It even got me sucked into it.  How, you ask, well I'll tell you.  Somehow, someway I acquired a reliable source within the Jamison Group.  I also had a reliable source within the group that was going to manage the arena.  One night in Feb. 2012, both sources came together and I had a chance to break a story, but little did I know how far that would go.  To see the result, Google: "Dave Zorn Coyotes" and read the fun.  I flipped out.  Within an hour of sending a "tweet" out claiming the deal was about finished, I got 5 radio interview requests.  I was overwhelmed.  Thanks to many people I know in this business, talking me down from the ledge, I refocused and continued on.  Unfortunately for me, the deal fell through and I became a marked man in Winnipeg and Quebec City.  More on that later.  We fast forward to the end.  Jamison, like Hulsizer, got the votes on a lease agreement with the City of Glendale and Coyotes fans thought it was done.  No Goldwalter, no cheap attempt at a referendum.  Done, right?  Well, not so much. Jamison failed to come to an agreement with the NHL to buy the team and we are back to square one...again.  Next:

Reenter Ice Edge Holdings, Anthony LeBlanc, Darryl Jones and a few others as they created Renaissance Sports and Entertainment.  The Ice Edge boys tried unsuccessfully to buy the Coyotes back in round one, but stuck around.  In a short time, they reached an agreement with the NHL, and it was on to Glendale for a lease agreement.  This CoG council is new and claimed it will be tougher a third time around with any group.  After a load of politics and other BS, the council passed the agreement and now IceArizona wins. 

Where do we stand now? All of the work is done for IceArizona to take over the franchise in early August.  Glendale resident, and water bill enthusiast, Ken Jones has taken out a petition for a referendum on the lease agreement.  Mr. Jones is in bad health, in his 80s and failed miserably the last go around.  This won't go well for Mr. Jones.  The Goldwater Institute has been quoted as saying they are "watching the deal very closely" but not a peep from them.  IceArizona attorney, former Arizona attorney general Grant Woods has sent a message to GWI to basically, bring it.  My educated guess is Goldwater won't touch this.  The main concern to regular folk is a clause in the lease agreement to where IceArizona can get out of the agreement after five years of the 15-year lease.  However, the clause kicks into effect ONLY if the group loses 50-million dollars total in the five years.  LeBlanc took to valley airwaves to clear up that issue.  He told Fox Sports 910 this afternoon that it's very unlikely that will kick into play.  He said all of their income projections were low. He said they took the worst year moneywise for the Coyotes and made their calculations.  He then dropped the bomb.  LeBlanc said if they had taken 2011-12 season numbers, where the Coyotes reached the Western Conference Finals, the City of Glendale would have profited with the revenue streams that are coming back to them in this agreement.  Pretty cool right? 

Is there speculation they could move after five years? Sure.  But I have a feeling it won't matter in five years.  This group is highly-motivated to make this work.  However, it's on the fans now.  There are no more excuses to why hockey is perceived to not work here.  It's time to up the attendance and show the haters this market can thrive for the awesome sport of hockey. 

So here we are.  Fans of the Coyotes are more than thrilled this nightmare is over.   I will say this.  Coyotes fans are the most passionate fans of a team in the valley. That's no slight on the other fanbases, but no fanbase in north America has had to endure the badgering, insults, attacks and just childish behavior like Coyotes fans have.  I have endured them as well.  If you remember, I was a target of some people from Winnipeg and Quebec City.  Most of the insults I could take, but some found pictures of me and family and chose to make it personal.  I had Twitter investigate it and if the guy even breathes he is banned.  That has helped.  This is the lengths some people have gone to come after me.  But, I'm a big guy, I can handle it. I wrap this up, I want to thank many people who I have met and have developed friendships through this journey.  There are way too many to mention, but if we have talked a few times, shared stories and had a few beverages over the Coyotes I am talking about you.  Here is to the future of the soon-to-be Arizona Coyotes and that's good for everyone.