Tuesday, 11 May 2010

That's All, Folks!

No, this blog isn't ending, despite some people most likely wishing for that to happen. What is ending, however, is the long-anticipated dream of the NHL returning to Winnipeg in the near future. The Glendale city councillors all but killed the idea of the Coyotes returning to the city where the franchise was founded with a unanimous 7-0 decision to give the NHL $25 million to cover their losses if no owner is found during this off-season. I'd say this feels a lot like 1995 if it weren't for the NHL's resolve to keep the Coyotes in their current location.

I'm not against the NHL's resolve, however, since the Southwest market is pretty much dominated by the Phoenix market once you look outside of California. They need a foothold there for any of the big television station to notice them, and walking away would mean no chatter whatsoever from ESPN when the next national US television contract comes up for renegotiation?

Now that the City of Glendale has bought another year's worth of time - much like Winnipeg did in 1995 with their $20 million payment - the NHL can focus on finding a new owner or ownership group that will pledge to keep the team in Arizona. If the Coyotes are sold to a group committed to keeping them in Phoenix, I'm happy for the fans in Phoenix and Glendale and surrounding communities who have been put through hell twice in two seasons. They deserve their team because they care for them just as much as Winnipeggers did in 1995.

Now, I'm not an economist or tax lawyer, but that special tax or fee or whatever they want to call it better be wide-ranging. I don't mean to sound like I want Glendale to pillage their own citizens, but if the NHL is going to need that $25 million, that's a heck of a boatload of money to raise in one year. I just want everyone to realize that they're not only on the hook for Coyotes' tickets, but the possibility of an additional $25 million. As long as we're clear on that.

This, however, needs to be said: congratulations to the City of Glendale, the fans of the Phoenix Coyotes, and the people of Arizona. Your councillors made a very tough decision when it comes to their future political careers, and are now holding an invoice that will cost them and all of their constituents $25 million if the NHL can't sell and ends up losing money next season.

I'm also thankful that Gary Bettman spelled out very clearly last night on Hockey Night In Canada that Winnipeg is an option for a potential move, but certainly not a guarantee in any situation. Winnipeggers need to realize that moving an NHL team into Winnipeg will not only cost more money to ice a team, but the costs associated with that team will sky-rocket exponentially. Winnipeg has the 29th-ranked arena in terms of size in the NHL's current arena seating charts. After all, we're talking about a league that is gate-driven in the majority of markets, so Winnipeg would have to post season after season of consecutive sell-outs just to break even. You read that last portion correctly: break even.

The Coyotes demonstrated that if you ice a competitive team, the fans will fill the arena. It's not secret that success attracts fans, so having the Coyotes play winning hockey - something they aren't known for in their history - will draw fans back to the rink. They filled the building through the last two months regularly, and they showed that they love the Coyotes.

The onus is always on the fans to support their team. Coyotes fans need to continue to make the trek to Jobing.com Arena. If they do that, the Coyotes-to-Winnipeg chatter won't ever reach the insanity it did like it was this week in both cities. And there's a good chance that the Coyotes will remain successful.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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