There is little that could surprise anyone more when it comes to the Arizona Coyotes. They become kicked out of their building after this season. She almost got kicked out in the middle of it. It is apparently a horrible place to work† The owner may not have real money. And the team has been vacuuming up pond residue for about ten years.
So when the news broke last week that the… Yotes actually ask their college friends if they can plop down on the couch while “just sorting out some stuff,” it barely raised an eyebrow. But when the details came out, you wondered how a competition could go with something like this, because it makes them look even more Mickey Mouse than they already do.
The deal is that because the Yotes have nowhere to play next season, they would like to move to the Arizona state multi-purpose athletic facility while their new arena is being built. The latter is the key, because there is no guarantee that the Coyotes are going to get their new Tempe arena/entertainment district they’ve been dreaming of for a few years. The bill for that is $1.7 billion, and given that they struggled to pay their bills in Glendale, the Tempe City Council isn’t exactly sprinting to do business with the team.
Tempe is considered a better location for the Yotes due to its proximity to Scottsdale and Phoenix than Glendale, but nothing is assured. And the chicken play about discovering its new arena and what it will do next year comes to a head.
If the Yotes are going to get that Tempe arena, it wouldn’t be ready for a few years, meaning a tentative plan. That’s where ASU comes in. They currently have a 5,000-seat facility where the hockey team plays, among other things. But as you might imagine, moving into a college arena — a mid-level program college arena at best — presents challenges for a professional team. First, the Coytes and Sun Devils can’t share locker rooms or training facilities like a gym and the like, so the Yotes will have to build an outhouse next to the building that houses all these things. And they will have to foot the bill. The reported bill on it is a range of less than $20 million, which one would assume is a dashboard change for a professional sports team owner. But then again, Alex Meruelo couldn’t pay his taxes at Glendale just over a month ago, so nothing is a straight shot here.
Another issue is that ASU still has a first call to use the building, meaning the Coyotes couldn’t get a home game until December 2022, at least right now, meaning the first six weeks of the season (at least) can start on the road. Also, college hockey games are almost exclusively doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday nights, meaning the Coyotes would only have a few of those nights, the most likely to attract fans. At best, they’ll have half of them available, and NHL planning probably won’t give them all those dates.
The Coyotes will also miss out on sponsorship deals because ads on the ice or ads along the signs aren’t worth as much if some frat boys are the only ones they’ll see.
And yet Gary Bettman, who will apparently implode like a Spinal Tap drummer if he ever admits he was wrong, is fine with all this† During his All-Star weekend speech, Bettman was almost optimistic about the whole thing. Bettman claimed they might even do better in this little outpost, basically giving away the game on how many fans the Yotes are pulling on any given night. He also said it’s not much of a problem because the Coyotes already receive the maximum in revenue sharing.
Which is another problem. On the 32 thoughts podcasthockey bigfoot Elliotte Friedman said more than a handful of owners are wondering why they need to subsidize this farce, and want the league to take away the portion of Arizona revenue they get only because of their own incompetence. Without that help from the rest of the NHL, it’s doubtful this plan will work for the Coyotes. That certainly won’t happen without their new arena’s approval.
Again, this is Bettman desperately sticking to his “southern strategy,” which is perhaps the only positive thing his tenure is reminded of for resisting the legacy of repeated lockouts. And it partially succeeded. Nashville and Tampa are great hockey markets. Carolina can be if the Canes are good. We’ll see if South Florida can be saved this year as the Panthers are arguably the best team in the league, and certainly the most entertaining. If people don’t come to see this version of the Panthers, Bettman may have a headache again.
However, the Coyotes seem to have gone bankrupt, and yet no one wants to admit it. It’s a shame the fans left behind in Arizona have been treated with scammers, swindlers, and the truly lost for virtually their entire existence. But sometimes something breaks past the point of repair. Retrofitting a multi-purpose college building would certainly indicate that Arizona is there.