After four long years of uncertainty, the desert dogs have landed an owner. Last night, the Glendale City Council voted 4-3 on the lease agreement that guarantees at least five more years of the Arizona Coyotes.
Yes, you read that right. The Arizona Coyotes.
The team is changing the name to the Arizona Coyotes because the team was moved out of Phoenix and the America West Arena into Glendale and the Jobing.com arena in 2003. The move was essential because the America West Arena was not made for hockey. The floor barely fit an ice rink and the sight lines limited the 18,000 seat arena to just over 16,000 seats. Those factors paired with poor ownership and an unfortunate lease agreement in Phoenix ushered the team into a state of financial peril that they could not recover from.
Not even after moving to an arena built for hockey.
The team didn’t find success in Glendale for multiple reasons. It was still hemorrhaging financially because of prior ownership issues and the new location wasn’t exactly ideal. Although it was great for the Coyotes to be able to play in an arena built for hockey, it wasn’t so great for the people of Phoenix. A majority of the hockey fans in Arizona live in the East Valley or in Scottsdale, which equates to an approximate 60 to 90 minute drive during the week.
The Coyotes also struggled because of their coaching situation. While Wayne Gretzky is arguably one of the greatest hockey players of all time, it’s safe to say that he was not meant to be a coach in the NHL. In fact, he is the only coach in the Coyotes history to have a sub .500 win percentage (aside from Rick Bowness who coached the team for 20 games after Bob Francis left the team). Gretzky coached the Coyotes for 310 games, boasting only 310 points with a .473 win percentage.
The Coyotes didn’t start to find success on the ice again until Dave Tippett took over as the head coach in 2009. Since he took over, the team has boasted a .609 win percentage and worked their way to the Western Conference Finals in 2011-2012 despite the organization’s lack of ownership.
So, why is five more years in Arizona a good thing? Why isn’t it better to just move the team to Seattle, or Quebec, or to Kansas City?
It’s a good thing because the city is still a viable option for hockey. Before I moved to Phoenix, I don’t think that I would believe it. I would say the same thing that gets said by most hockey fans around the world.
The Coyotes have lost money for years. They can’t sell out their arena. They’re this, or they’re that. They’re just not capable of sustaining hockey in the desert.
…but it’s not true. Hockey does have a place in the desert. Since the move to Phoenix in 1996, Arizona went from 2 sheets of ice to 11. There are six rinks in the Phoenix metropolitan area. With that youth hockey is on the rise, along with attendance at Jobing.com and the overall awareness of the sport. Arizona is proving that it is a viable option for hockey, but it can’t happen without the right people wanting it to happen.
I believe that the Renaissance Sports and Entertainment (RSE) group and their partnership with Global Spectrum (the owners of the Philadelphia Flyers) can be that group of people that want it to happen. If they stand behind the product, behind the Arizona Coyotes, there is a very good chance that this team can succeed both on and off the ice. Dave Tippett has taken this ragtag group of second and third line players and found success. I can’t even imagine what he could do with a financial backer that could draw free agents to the organization.
I’m not saying that anything is going to happen overnight, but I am saying that the potential is there and that I have faith in the Arizona Coyotes.