The Arizona Coyotes are the red-headed stepchild of hockey. Since moving from Winnipeg the team has had more ownership groups and individuals than the average Kardashian has had boyfriends. The first arena they played in was so ill-suited for hockey that fans seated at one end couldn’t see the goal area beneath them. The second arena was so poorly located fans stayed away in droves. Now the owners of said arena, namely the city of Glendale, have informed the team to grab all of its ACME moving boxes and vacate the premises after the 2021-2022 season concludes. Apparently the team is having issues shoveling out rent to the city, this due in no small part to both COVID and how even when the arena was available at full capacity no one went there because it was too far away from the team’s primary fan base and the team wasn’t very good most of the time.
While cities who would cheerfully set the planet on fire to have a NHL team (*coughhoustoncough*) are salivating at the prospect of the Coyotes having to leave Arizona altogether, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has made it quite clear he will do everything up to and including capturing the Roadrunner himself and/or flooding the Grand Canyon followed by freezing it over to keep the Coyotes in the Grand Canyon State.
The Arizona Coyotes will remain in the Phoenix area, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday after the city of Glendale announced it would not renew its operating agreement with the team at Gila River Arena following this season.
“I’m not worried about the Coyotes.” Commissioner Bettman said on WFAN 660 AM in New York. “I think their future stays in the greater Phoenix area.”
Commissioner Bettman said this is the latest step in talks between the two parties.
“First of all, I don’t think the Coyote franchise is going anywhere,” he said. “I think the city of Glendale is negotiating.
“There’s no secret that Alex Meruelo, who’s the owner of the Coyotes, is looking at his options to build a new arena somewhere else in greater Phoenix and I think the city of Glendale basically said to the Coyotes, you have to sign a 20-year lease or we’re not going to renew.”
Translation: Bettman would much rather see an expansion franchise and the ten bajillion dollars associated with same in Houston rather than having the Coyotes move there for a comparatively insignificant relocation fee.
The Coyotes have declared their determination to remain in their present location, presently rumored to be placing free bird seed on a highway somewhere within state borders.
“We are disappointed by today’s unilateral decision by the City of Glendale to break off negotiations on a multi-year lease extension agreement. We are hopeful that they will reconsider a move that would primarily damage the small businesses and hard-working citizens of Glendale. We remain open to restarting good-faith negotiations with the City.
“Most importantly, the Coyotes are one hundred percent committed to finding a long-term arena solution here in Arizona, and nothing will shake our determination to do what is right for our organization, residents of the entire Valley and, most important, our fans.”
Surprisingly enough to most outside observers, the Coyotes do have fans. I attended a Coyotes game at their first home, and the place was both full and enthusiastic despite the facility’s aforementioned unsuitability for hockey. A properly placed, team-owned arena would quite likely put the Coyotes alongside the Vegas Golden Knights as a team with a fervent and highly visible fan base at every game. Well, that and winning.
The Coyotes have been in talks with the city of Mesa regarding building an arena there, which makes sense as the city is already enjoying a fruitful relationship with the team. Although the team itself is presently in a rebuilding phase, should its plan go according to, well, plan it should be a legitimate contender in three or so years. What better time to move into some new digs?
And so, the soap opera that is the Arizona Coyotes continues. Hopefully for the sake of the team’s fans and teams from back East who love nothing more than a road trip going through Arizona in February, things will come together.