After a few years of quiet, there may be fresh series of episodes in the Arizona Coyotes soap opera (I mean story). If no one wants to see the team play (Arizona still has one of the poor attendance records in the NHL), at least it still gets the media’s attention by its survival status.
It is being reported on the Internet that the citizens of Glendale who fought to the death to keep a tenant in their arena and out of Hamilton, Ontario are now sick of paying fees to the NHL as part of that bargain and want someone to take the team off their hands and leave them with an empty arena in peace. It is rumored that the Coyotes will not be moved far, but to the other side of Phoenix, in Tempe, Arizona in yet another new arena to be built.
It hardly needs mentioning that this latest possible series of chapters in this regrettable epic is yet another major embarrassment to the NHL and its status in the United States. Aiming to prove to American television to win a lucrative contract, Gary Bettman and the NHL Board have let franchises move or be planted anywhere in the United States to show that hockey is “America’s game”. The old Winnipeg Jets were shifted to questionable desert Phoenix. Hartford left New England for warm, sunny, doubtful Carolina. Right now some of the lowest attendance figures in the NHL are in Phoenix, Arizona, Raleigh, Carolina, Miami, Florida, and an ill considered move by the New York Islanders to Brooklyn. This new report of a possible Coyote move, however close it may be, is not a good omen for the possible success of the NHL’s newest desert team, Las Vegas. Meanwhile cities like Quebec City and Hamilton who are dying for an NHL franchise and Portland which has deep roots in Canadian junior hockey and might have submitted a bid during the last NHL expansion until it saw that $500 million expansion fee are without teams.
It is doubtful that the Coyotes will move to Tempe, at least in the near future. There are a lot of multi-million dollar hurdles to be overcome before a single shovel begins construction of a new arena. Given the fact that it takes nearly 2-3 years to build an arena or stadium, the residents of Glendale are going to be stuck with the Coyotes for probably at least half a decade.
If they want the Coyotes to move immediately, their best chance is for an investor to move the team out of Arizona. But Hamilton and Quebec fans can forget about a move east because that would unbalance the NHL conferences even more. Canada’s best chance for the Coyotes is still Saskatoon if they can find an owner and build a suitable arena.`
More likely the Coyotes would be moved to a western American city. Right now Portland is the perfect choice. Milwaukee would be a top contender if they could find an owner. Other reasonable choices to where the NHL might have a chance of success are Kansas City, Houston, San Francisco (if they follow through with their rumored new arena), and Oklahoma City. Seattle, the best choice of all still cannot settle its arena problem.
Bettman and the NHL Board have noone to blame but themselves for this continuing mess. Jim Balsillie and Hamilton offered them a reasonable way out a few years ago, but the NHL fought vehemently against this obvious solution. Their reward has been a few years of money-losing quiet and now the possibility of more regrettable chapters in what seems to be a never-ending franchise struggle for survival.