It’s a sentence that has rolled off my tongue a couple hundred times while talking to Canadian buyers either in person, on the phone, or via e-mail …
“And right there is Jobing.Com Arena, where the Coyotes play.”
Though you’d never know it reading the Canadian papers, especially those fountains of objectivity (*insert toungue in cheek*) the Toronto Sun and the Toronto Globe and Mail, the Coyotes aren’t interlopers. They’ve played only 10 fewer seasons overall and only a couple fewer NHL seasons here in Phoenix than they did in Winnipeg.
And why did they come here? Because the Winnipeg Arena was antiquated, the city wasn’t lifting a finger to make any changes and the stability in general of Canadian franchises was very much in doubt. The Jets and the Quebec Nordiques did leave. Time was that the Edmonton Oilers were every bit as in trouble thanks to the then-state of the Canadian economy.
Little bits that get lost in the Toronto papers’ historical rewrite.
Phoenix had a hockey history long before the Coyotes arrives, with a couple different iterations of the Phoenix Roadrunners. The Arizona SunDogs up in Prescott Valley continue to draw decent crowds.
A few weeks back I was talking to a reporter from the New Times, who was in the midst of swallowing the general idea that attendance for the Coyotes always has sucked. What she, and no one else for that matter, never did was look to see where the numbers were as a percentage of total capacity.
And for the years at the now-US Airways center, some benefit of the doubt was in order since at least a quarter of the seats had obstructed views. (The second deck overhung the ice to the goal line; if you were in the front row, you’d stare straight down at the goalie in his crease and the area behind the goal would be under your feet.)
Yet the crowds came. The team’s marketing department embraced the upper deck seats where a third of the ice wasn’t visible, bringing in local bands to play during intermissions and selling tickets on the cheap through local radio promotions.
Good times continued out to Glendale Arena when it first opened as well. Some of our misguided East Valley brethren continue to bemoan putting an arena in the West Valley or, as they like to put it, the middle of nowhere. Which I guess is true if the middle of nowhere features hundreds of restaurants and bars, dozens of hotels, spring training facilities for the majority of the Cactus League, considerable shopping, and a healthy base of visitors who descend on the Valley each winter from colder, hockey-loving climates.
(Times like this, I hate the small-mindedness of the Eastsiders. I grew up there. I left, once for a job and the second (and final time) by choice. Get over it and cross Central.)
But then the former owner took the team into bankruptcy and the future became hazy.
Two years ago, when it wasn’t clear until late in the summer that the Coyotes would remain, the team couldn’t actively sell season tickets or advertising. The season started with 1,500 in attendance for a preseason game and next to no advertising on the boards. Imagine that – an arena where half the ads are “house” ads because sponsors couldn’t be solicited.
By the end of the season, the boards were back to normal with advertisers and the team finished the season with eight straight sellout crowds.
This year was supposed to be different, at least until the Goldwater Institute appointed themselves guardians of all. Thank goodness they’re looking out for us taxpayers … well, except the citizens of Glendale who, if the bond offer that will save the team goes through, will be paying more because the Goldwater Institute’s interference has jacked the interest rates on the bonds. Or those citizens who depend on the arena and its events for their livelihood, folks who very likely will find themselves out of a job without a hockey team.
Accountable to no one. Responsible to no one. Representing no one. And grandstanding all the way. Welcome to the hypocrisy and cluelessness of the Goldwater Institute.
So here we are two days after the end of the season and it’s unclear whether the Coyotes ever will take the ice again.
Canadian newspapers are chirping their glee without looking back at what caused the team to leave in the first place. At least Winnipeg Arena is no longer, so that’s a step in the right direction. As for everything else, only time will tell if this turns out any better than a divorced couple who hook up one night after a couple too many cocktails.
You can forget what caused the problems for a while but eventually it all becomes real again. And so it likely will be again. There’s a reason they say you can’t go home again.
Vaya con Dios, Coyotes. And Goldwater Institute, please take the opposite path.