Coyote Fans Should Be Howling At The Uncertainty

There’s a great line spoken by the character Rockhound (played by Steve Buscemi) in the film “Armageddon.” While Bruce Willis and company were trying to drill an 800 foot hole into an impenetrable asteroid, he was accepting that the world was probably coming to an end.   Rockhound said “We’re staying, we’re going, we’re staying, we’re going, make up your mind!”  

Well, it is time for the NHL, the City of Glendale and the Arizona Coyotes to make up their minds.

A report surfaced this week that the Coyotes are being purchased by yet another owner and will then be moved to Las Vegas.  Is that possible?  Yes!  Are there reasons why it is not likely?  Also, yes!  

You see, the NHL is thinking about expansion.  One of the frontrunner cities for a new franchise is Las Vegas.  If the NHL expands rather than having an existing team relocate there from another city, the new owners must pay a franchise fee to the NHL.  Some estimate that the cost would be as much as $500 million to be shared by the existing franchise owners as a “welcome to the club” fee.  A move of an existing franchise would not require such a payment. So, the combination of dollars to the NHL and the reportedly significant interests in the Vegas community to get its own franchise would clearly point against Las Vegas inheriting the losing tradition of another franchise.  

Why would Las Vegas want an expansion franchise which, historically, requires years of patience before a competitive roster can be built?  Wouldn’t they be better off with the assets that already exist on the Coyotes roster, few as they may be?  Well, just look at the history in Phoenix for the answer.  The Suns and D-Backs have always been seen as “our teams,”  home grown and all.  While the fan support has increased greatly over the past decades, there are still many who see the Cardinals as the team from St Louis.  It took far longer to create excitement about inheriting Bidwell’s Cardinals than it did when Jerry Colangelo brought us the D-Backs.  Fans will endure losing if they feel they gave birth to the franchise, rather than adopting one that more than one city has discarded or lost.

The issues with the Coyotes are quite complex.  The City of Glendale voided their contract, largely because the existing lease with the Coyotes places a great financial strain on the Glendale budget and its citizens.  The Coyotes are asking for nothing more than the benefit of its prior bargain and need the financial concessions to help rebuild a franchise that has struggled, both on and off the ice.  Business owners near the Coyotes’ arena are holding their collective breath that their investment in the business potential will not melt before their eyes.  The NHL, who has been bailing out the franchise during ownership uncertainty and insolvency, has the right to want stability in its franchises.  

But what about all of us, as fans?  We are asked to use our hard-earned dollars to support a team that infrequently places a winner on the ice.  We are asked to be in it for the long haul for a franchise that is annually rumored to be moving off to better locations.  We are made to feel like the guy whose girlfriend sticks around only because she hasn’t gotten a better offer.  We are asked to be understanding when a city government must weigh fiscal responsibility in a fashion that might send the franchise packing.

So, to all them on behalf of all of us, the fans:  “You’re going, you’re staying, you’re going.”  Make up your minds!