Sports Opinion & Analysis

Top 3 Destinations for the Phoenix Coyotes

In NHL on June 6, 2012 at 10:53 am

Now that the Stanley Cup Finals are all but over, it seems only right we redirect our attention to some housekeeping facing the NHL this offseason.

First and foremost though, congratulations to the L.A. Kings, and good luck to their city’s fire department. I can only assume how difficult extinguishing car fires must be.

Now that that’s over, the big question facing the league over the next couple months is where-oh-where will the Team-Who-Wouldn’t-Die-Until-They-Finally-Did, the Phoenix Coyotes, end up next season?

While Glendale, the current city the team plays in already has an agreement with potential owner, Greg Jaimason, to keep the team in the desert (and supposedly change the name to the Arizona Coyotes), that really doesn’t mean much when it comes to this team. The team’s been down this path before. They’ve been further down the path with potential buyers, only to see everything go up in smoke. A few times, actually.

Until the ink on the contract is dry, the team is still a potential candidate for relocation. With that understood, here are best fits for a suddenly and surprisingly potential contender of the future.

3. Quebec City

This is actually Ottawa, not Quebec City, but you didn’t know that either, did you?

Quebec City is located in Canada. Now do you know where it is?

With a population smaller than Columbus, Ohio; Memphis, Tennessee; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and only slightly larger than Sacramento, California, the city’s tiny in comparison to the population of Phoenix, which is the sixth biggest city in the United States.

Even with its smaller numbers though, Quebec City would still probably generate more excitement for a professional hockey team than the Coyotes have in Phoenix over the last sixteen years.

The problem with that line of thinking though, is that growth-potential for a fan base in Quebec City tops off at roughly half-a-million people, while the Phoenix Metropolitan Area offers a reach almost nine times larger. Under that logic, when and if the initial novelty of the team wears off, and (if the history of the club has proven anything) the team starts tanking, people might stop showing up and then Quebec City would have serious issues trying generating the same-sized fan base that Phoenix, even during its most apathetic years, provided.

Canadians love hockey, and while Quebec City is full of them, the league has shown it wants to appeal to a broader market than just Canada. With the NHL’s attempts to expand to markets outside the comfort zone of the sport, Quebec City doesn’t make any sense for anybody.

2. Seattle

We couldn’t save our Sonics, so now we want yours!

Everyone felt bad when David Stern and Clay Bennett swooped in on idiot latte-maker Howard Shultz and stole the Sonics out of the city they played in for 41 years. We all applauded those diehard Sonics fans (above) who showed up to a Thunder/Nuggets playoff game, sat behind their former team’s bench, and started heckling them. “No team is safe,” they chanted and chanted, over and over and over again. “No team is safe!”

Ain’t that for sure.

On the heels of taking another step toward building a new, $500 million dollar arena, the city of Seattle now just needs someone to fill it. They’re targeting NBA teams and NHL teams. They’re targeting the Coyotes.

I have nothing to argue against Seattle. It is a great sports market and a great city. They deserve to have a team in every professional sport.

Although, with the way they’ve rightfully played victim the last few years, it would be more than ironic (and a little sad) if they pulled the same stunt on a different city. Besides, once Seattle does get a new team, whether basketball or hockey, then they lose all national support for acquiring another one. Wouldn’t you want to save that card for a new Sonics?

Seattle deserves a hockey team and a basketball team. But expansion teams. Not someone else’s sloppy seconds.

1. Phoenix

It’s apathy, but it’s a dry apathy.

Everyone always said hockey would never work in the desert. They also said it would never work in Los Angeles.

Now, as much as the city sometimes wishes it could be, Phoenix is not LA. But it’s still the sixth biggest city in America, and the 13th biggest television market in the country. It’s got potential.

The issue that has always burdened Phoenix and its sports community is that the place is filled with transplants from different parts of the country. While a lot of them actually come from L.A. (which explains it’s identity problem), they come from all over, particularly cold places where they like hockey, and consequently already have loyalties to other teams. If the new guys aren’t winning (which until recently, was the case) why bother making the drive to Glendale when they can watch their childhood team on DirectTV. That is, until their childhood team comes to town to play the Coyotes.

That’s another problem that’s faced the team and it’s fans; they have to drive to Glendale.

The Phoenix Metropolitan Area is roughly 70 miles wide, with the more affluent (and former season ticket holding) areas on the center/east side. The worst mistake the team ever made, besides being owned by Jerry Moyes, was not building their stadium in a more central location, and instead agreeing to build it on the far west-side of town, consequently eliminating the attendance of people most likely to show up.

The city’s also one of the more distressed economies in the country, and the stadium’s in an area where people are hard-pressed to afford season tickets, or even a 10 game package, or even a single game for the whole family.

If you live on the far east side of the city, further east of the more affluent areas, then you have to drive over an hour (or two, depending on rush hour), one way, just to go to a game. If you have work, or your kids have school the next morning, you just can’t do it. Something’s gotta give. Gas alone is the price of a ticket.

The Cardinals get away with having their stadium all the way out in Glendale because the Cardinals are only asking their fans to make the trek eight Sundays a year (unless your team is unfortunate enough to be selected to play in Mexico or London that year). The Coyotes are asking their fans to drive that distance 41 times a year. Even if you live in the most prominent areas, who can afford that? Especially (except recently) when the team wasn’t giving you anything to watch on the ice anyways. Don’t fault the residents of the city for never building a fan base for a team that wasn’t really any good, when they couldn’t pay for a seat, or afford the time of a two-hour round trip.

“Nobody told us not to care.”

But things have changed. The Coyotes are all of a sudden looking like a future contender. People have noticed and the city is still buzzing about their Western Conference Finals run. Fans are being born. To take the team away now would be sad to the organization who is finally seeing the fruits of their labor, and unfair to the residents who finally have something to cheer for. In a perfect world, the Coyotes would stay in Glendale, play out their contract with the city, and then relocate back to downtown, so everybody could have a chance to see them.

I mean, it took the city 20 years to warm up to the Cardinals, the worst sports franchise in history, and that’s football, the most popular sport in America. Cut them a break.


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