Connect with us

Calgary Flames

Flames Daily: Dog-gone! Arizona Coyotes arena saga could (finally, thankfully) be at an end



Arizona Coyotes leaving Phoenix?

In Calgary on April 25, the Flames, the city and the province announced they will build a $1.2-billion arena and surrounding district, ending years of negotiation.

In Tempe, Ariz., about three weeks later, the Arizona Coyotes announced they will have to mull their options after voters there rejected the NHL team’s proposal to build a $2.1-billion arena and entertainment district, very probably ending years of hand-wringing over where in the metro Phoenix area they will play after being evicted from their longtime digs in Glendale a year ago.

It’s a tale of two cities, but really, it’s more like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The fights to build a new arena and accompanying revenue-generating district are the same in both cases, but in Calgary’s situation, there was little doubt a deal would eventually get done. Gone are the days when NHL teams in Canadian markets pull up stakes and fly south. Ironically, the Coyotes are one of the two modern franchises that did just that: Winnipeg to Phoenix in 1996.

In Canada, hockey is king among live pro sports (while in the U.S. on ESPN2, cornhole reigns). Unless the sports-viewing landscape changes dramatically, it will surely be the only game in town for most of the markets north of the 49th parallel, particularly those not named Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, for the foreseeable future.

In Phoenix, while there are hockey fans, there aren’t enough of them, apparently, to sway a vote. Mind you, if the Calgary arena deal was put to voters, I wonder what the result would’ve been.

Now, if the Coyotes can break their three-year lease, could we see moving trucks pull up to the 4,600-seat Mullet Arena — current home in Tempe of the ‘Yotes, shared with landlord Arizona State University — next month and move them to, say, Houston for the 2023-24 season? And oh look, Kansas City has an arena ready to host an NHL team and its in the Central time zone, how convenient!

There probably isn’t enough time for the Coyotes to move, so at least one more year at the major junior-sized shack is probably in order.

But for 2024-25, whether it’s the current owner or a new one, odds are pretty good Arizona will no longer be home to NHL hockey.

Or a new owner could build a new arena in metro Phoenix on his/her own or find private financing to back it. It happens, even in the NHL.

Let’s look back at the Coyotes arena saga, which started when they first arrived in the southwestern U.S. desert:

1996: Original Winnipeg Jets move to Arizona to become the Phoenix Coyotes. They play home games to big (94 percent capacity), enthusiastic crowds at the America West Arena (today known as the Footprint Center), home of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and site of 5,287 obstructed views — a third of its 16,200 capacity for hockey.

2001: Steve Ellman buys a majority stake in the Coyotes from Richard Burke and brings in NHL legend Wayne Gretzky as a minority partner. After failing to reach an agreement with Phoenix suburb Scottsdale for a new arena complex, Ellman strikes one with Glendale, which sees that city borrow $183 million to build a new arena on the edge of the metropolitan area. The Glendale Arena opens in 2003.

2006: Jerry Moyes, who had been a minority partner with Ellman, takes controlling interest in the Coyotes. Arena is renamed Arena.

2009: Moyes files for bankruptcy protection for the team. BlackBerry billionaire Jim Balsillie attempts to buy the Coyotes for $212.5 million and relocate it to Hamilton, a move which was rejected in court. In November, Moyes sells the team to the NHL for $140 million.

2013: IceArizona buys the Coyotes.

2014: Andrew Barroway becomes majority owner after buying a 51-percent stake in the team for $152.5 million. The team changes its name to the Arizona Coyotes.

2015: Glendale city council votes to terminate Coyotes’ 15-year lease for the arena, which started in 2013.

2016: Team starts to operate at the arena, now named Gila River Arena and managed by AEG Facilities, on a year-to-year lease.

2017: Barroway buys out minority partners to become sole owner of the Coyotes.

2019: Alex Meruelo buys majority stake in the team from Barroway, who remains a minority partner.

2021: Tempe asks for requests for proposals to develop a parcel of land that would include a sports arena, housing and retail development; the Coyotes say they’ll submit a proposal for it. Glendale announces it won’t renew the Coyotes’ lease following the 2021-22 NHL season. The city says it’s because they are looking for ‘more impactful’ events for the arena (which didn’t include at least 41 NHL dates per season), apparently).after news leaks the team was looking to build a new arena in Tempe.

2022: The Coyotes move to the 4,600-seat Mullett Arena in Tempe on the campus of Arizona State University. The team submits a proposal to the city to redevelop 46 acres on the site of a landfill next to the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport for a $2.1-billion entertainment district, which would include a 16,000-seat arena.

2023: On May 16, Tempe residents reject the Coyotes’ entertainmnt district proposal.

‘Off-season’ roundup

I know, I know: the conference finals start tomorrow with the Panthers at Hurricanes before we see the West opener between the Stars and the Golden Knights on Friday. But the southern U.S. is so far away and so warm, how can they possibly wear T-shirts and shorts inside cool arenas for three-plus hours …

Trade rumour mill churns: And the biggest, buzziest names are Erik Karlsson, William Nylander, Connor Hellebuyck and Mark Scheiffele.

‘Big’ Leafs changes at hand. You sure about that?: Toronto made it to the second round and even won a game during it. That’s progress. Still, contracts for the ‘Core 4’ are coming ever closer to expiration, the lynchpin being that belonging to Auston Matthews, he of wicked, wicked shot who’s slated to be UFA after 2023-24. And what a shame John Tavares, who has two years left on his deal, has a no-move clause, eh?

‘Cup or bust’ for McDavid & Co.: Oilers superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl look ahead to next year’s playoffs. Edmonton GM Ken Holland needs to bolster the salary-saturated roster somehow to improve the team’s overall defensive play. The Oilers’ goals-against average in the playoffs this year? Woof.

Around the NHN network

Boston: It seems writers in Beantown have a little too much time on their hands — and digital pages/quotas to fill, too, perhaps — because they’re suggesting the Oilers could/should/would entertain trading Draisaitl to the Bruins for a package that includes Linus Ullmark, Jake DeBrusk and two blue-chip prospects. It’s like the Bruins somehow were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs or something, the Red Sox are in last place in MLB’s hottest division (again), and they don’t like basketball, I dunno (here’s the /s). It’s true, Draisaitl has just two seasons left on his contract, but the Oilers want to take at least one more swing at a playoff run next campaign before seriously mulling Draisaitl’s (and Connor McDavid’s) future with the team (a la what’s happening now with the Maple Leafs). Besides, I put more stock into the rumour (one I heard somewhere or maybe I dreamed it after a late-night donair) that Los Angeles would somehow, some way poach the German Gretzky to replace the aging Anze Kopitar. If only Jimmy Carson and Martin Gelinas were available to go the other way if it’s via the trade route and not the Kings patiently waiting on Leon’s UFA status.

Montreal: Matvei Michkov should be in the Canadiens’ sights at the draft as he’s easily the next-best prospect after Connor Bedard, the argument here goes. They’re saying the forward’s “draft profile has reached generational status. He compares well to players such as Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Connor McDavid, and Auston Matthews, among others.” What others? Those are four of the best half-dozen players in the NHL right now. If he’s that good, the Anaheim Ducks will get him long before Montreal picks at No. 5.

Colorado: The NHL Draft is a month and a half away. Lots of time to write stories about who teams will take and all that. Here’s one suggesting the Avalanche maybe maybe maybe will trade their first-rounder, 27th overall, for something, not sure what, to improve their depth. I think the answer may lie in other truths laid bare here, such as the Avs already peddled their first-round pick last season and the prospect cupboard is sitting rather empty. I’ll bet a nickel GM Joe Sakic will hang onto the top-round pick for those reasons.

Pittsburgh: Funny Brad Treliving’s name hasn’t come up for the vacant Penguins GM job. Chatter about Kyle Dubas, though, and whether he’d leave Toronto for Pittsburgh’s vacancy. I like the idea of ex-Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin — who played for the Penguins near the end of his 20-year on-ice career — coming in as president, though. Bergevin and ex-Oilers/Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli were confirmed as early Pittsburgh candidates to replace the fired Ron Hextall.

San Jose: Ex-Sharks goalie Adin Hill stood tall (.934 save percentage, bravo!) for the Golden Knights in their six-game, second-round playoff series victory over the Oilers. Not bad — OK, great! — for a guy disposed of traded last summer for a fourth-round pick.

Vegas: It’s Stars head coach Peter DeBoer vs. VGK, the gold-clad team that gave him the golden boot last season, in this year’s Western Conference final. Can’t wait, especially because the start time in Sin City thankfully doesn’t screw up my beddy-bye routine. Pass the popcorn already!

Philadelphia: Four things the Flyers need to do this offseason. I’m sure if we put our heads together, we could come up with 10 more.

Click to comment
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Get Calgary Hockey Now in your inbox

Sign up to get the best Calgary Flames news, opinion and analysis sent directly to your inbox every day.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.