The weirdest hockey spring of the 21st century continued Monday.
It isn't just that so many high-seeded teams have been upset in the playoffs, so that we face the dreadful prospect of a Stanley Cup finals between the New Jersey Devils and the Phoenix Coyotes.
There also has been an off-ice development that no doubt puzzles every Bay Area hockeyholic.
Monday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the once-bankrupt and always-troubled Coyotes franchise is close to being sold to a group headed by Greg Jamison, pending resolution of some arena issues there.
Yes, that would be the same Greg Jamison who left the Sharks' CEO job in September 2010, saying the duties of running a hockey franchise weighed on him too heavily. In fact, by way of explanation, Jamison offered a pithy sound bite about what he had seen that morning in the mirror: "I just turned 60 and I feel like 40, but I look 80."
Less than two years later, apparently, Jamison has found the fountain of Zamboni youth. He has assembled an ownership group -- Jamison is not a hugely wealthy man -- and is getting back in the game with the NHL's most unsettled and financially distressed team.
Which, if you are a Sharks follower, prompts the trenchant and pertinent question:
When Jamison left the Sharks, the announcement was a surprise. The team was coming off a trip to the Western Conference finals. The arena was full every night. Jamison had been part of the Sharks franchise since 1993. He had a good relationship with Sharks general manager Doug Wilson. And age 60 is no longer considered that old.
So what was the deal? Behind the scenes, voices whispered that Jamison had been forced out as chief executive. The presumption, though never officially confirmed by higher-ups, was that Jamison had tried to stretch the organization's arms around too many non-hockey entities -- such as starting a merchandising company or buying interests in both the SAP Open tennis tournament and the Strikeforce mixed martial arts promotion.
Word was, the big cheeses in the Sharks ownership wanted to concentrate primarily on hockey. And over the past 20 months, actions taken by the franchise would seem to confirm that premise. Those ancillary enterprises have been ditched. The company itself was even renamed, ditching "Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment" to become "Sharks Sports & Entertainment."
Nothing wrong with any of that. But it does raise speculation that Jamison is in an "I'll-Show-You-Dadgum-Shark-Varmints" mode as he moves ahead with his attempted purchase in Arizona.
Because right now, the "I'll-Show-You-Dadgum-Shark-Varmints" mode is doing extremely good business.
Been paying attention? Last weekend, two people once fired by the Sharks -- former general manager Dean Lombardi and former coach Darryl Sutter -- maneuvered the Los Angeles Kings into the Western Conference finals. Meanwhile, former Sharks winger Ray Whitney is starring for the Coyotes in their Cup quest. Meanwhile, the Sharks have been sitting home for more than two weeks after their first-round exit.
The Sharks, of course, have spent many springs on the other side of that cycle, reaching three of the past eight conference finals and blowing past the Kings last year in the first round. However, it does make a person ponder if the NHL earth is shifting drastically beneath and around our beloved Los Tiburones -- especially with Jamison in position to extract further reprisal.
Jamison is still listed as one of the Sharks' 11 owners. He must sell his small share of the team to buy in Phoenix. So how do the other 10 people feel? None is expected to join him in the new venture. Asked for comment, the amorphous ownership group -- which has no CEO or president but is largely controlled by Kevin Compton and Stratton Sclavos -- responded with a statement so polite, it squeaked.
"Greg has been a long-time member of the Sharks family and our ownership group," the statement said. "We wish him the best of luck in this new endeavor."
Wilson, who is still working on his evaluation of what occurred, had a similar sentiment.
"I have great respect for Greg," said Wilson. "I wish him all the best. He's a good man, and he'll do a good job."
Whatever happens, it's going to be a tremendously difficult job. The Coyotes have been owned by the NHL for the past three seasons. They have never made money since moving to Phoenix from Winnipeg in 1996. The team's Jobing.com Arena, located in the far western Phoenix suburb of Glendale, is perceived to be out of the way and hard to reach.
Jamison must negotiate a new deal with the municipality, which by one account is so desperate, it will pay the Coyotes to operate the arena. Sounds swell, except that previous such agreements have been thwarted by a local financial watchdog/activist group that has shot them down.
The desert and hockey, ultimately, simply might not mix. So perhaps Jamison has negotiated a clause that would allow him, if certain conditions aren't met, to move the franchise elsewhere (probably a Canadian city).
No matter what, it's a long way from that September day in 2010 when Jamison stared at himself in the mirror and said he was sapped out as a sports executive. If he builds the Coyotes into a consistent Sharks nemesis ... well, let's just say that will be a very interesting reflection.
Contact Mark Purdy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5092.