Firstly, I know everyone has enjoyed not reading about the off-ice exploits of the Arizona Coyotes and their impending doom in Glendale. Those stories became so regular for so long, I think people just expected the team to move to Seattle, Las Vegas or Quebec City by now.
So, with that in mind, here’s another Coyotes-are-moving story.
Well, I think it’s fair to say they will be moving. Just not as far as most have thought.
With the City of Glendale backing out of the long-term agreement with the team to run the arena, the ownership group has been forced to look elsewhere in the Greater Phoenix area to build an arena.
Stories are certainly circulating about potential opportunities in downtown Phoenix (across from the baseball stadium), in Scottsdale and near the Arizona State University campus in Tempe.
There is little doubt that a new downtown arena appears to be the front-runner, but don’t rule out competing bids from the university as a second choice. There are some even suggesting that there is a fourth potential site for the Coyotes to play within five years. Suffice it to say — barring any last-minute philosophical changes by local government in Glendale — that the 2016-17 season could be the final year of hockey at Gila River Arena.
In the interim, as planning and construction of a new rink occurs, the Coyotes might contemplate a return downtown and play a season or two (even three?) as a tenant of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns in Talking Stick Casino Arena with its many hockey obstructed seats. It wouldn’t be ideal, but given the rather acrimonious relationship between the team and Glendale, it might be a viable option — and the only option.
There have always been claims the Valley of the Sun is home to many more hockey fans than those who make their way to Westgate and the arena. Dating back to the old WHL pro league and the WHA, hockey does have a rich and deep history in this area. The location of the current rink has always been a contentious issue. That may soon be a hollow excuse for the Coyotes.
The stubbornness and loyalty of this ownership group to stay in the Valley is one of either pure financial heroism or blind stupidity… or a combination of the two. This group still truly believes that the market can bear a hockey team — just not in Glendale — and they are prepared to make it work. And their unwavering commitment to the market is paying off with the possibility of a new arena somewhere close.
Very quietly earlier this month, the owners hired Mitchell Ziets, CEO of Tipping Point Sports, LLC, as an arena consultant.
“With a background in corporate and municipal finance, Mitchell Ziets has structured and executed financing plans which include municipal, team and project debt,” his bio reads. “He has also advised team owners, municipalities, investors and developers on more than 100 sports related transactions, including franchise acquisitions, stadium and arena development projects and financings and has raised over $7 billion for his clients.”
Six current NHL arenas have been assisted by Ziets, and it appears a seventh in Arizona is on its way. Certainly sources inside the league office are enthusiastic that Ziets and his company have been retained by the hockey club.
It seems everything is turning up Arizona when it comes to hockey.
On the ice, the team is embracing a youth movement with Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and Klas Dahlbeck, and their adoptive grandfather Shane Doan. Dave Tippett’s defence-first philosophy has morphed into a defence and speed game that has been very entertaining to watch. This, combined with local boy Auston Matthews — currently playing the Swiss League and being touted as the first pick in next June’s draft — makes Coyotes hockey and the NHL much more attractive than previous years.
My, how things change in this game, with patience… and deep pockets.