12 June 2015

What does the future hold for the Coyotes now?

The drama in the desert will never end, apparently. On Wednesday evening, the Glendale city council, in a 5-2 vote, decided to end the Arizona Coyotes' lease at Gila River Arena, leaving the franchise's future in doubt. This decision came two years after the city council approved a 15-year, $225 million lease agreement in which the city pays the organization $15 million a year to use the arena.

But once again, the future of the organization seems tenuous at best.

What is the city council's justification for cancelling the contact? From the Arizona Republic:
City Attorney Michael Bailey explained that the conflict-of-interest statute allows a city to terminate a contract within three years of it being signed if a person who was significantly involved in drafting or creating the contract for the city later becomes an agent or employee of the other party of the contract. 
In this case, the city reached a separation agreement with former City Attorney Craig Tindall in April 2013 but continued to pay him his salary for six months and relied on him as a consultant. The Coyotes hired Tindall on Aug. 20, about seven weeks after Glendale approved the Coyotes deal.
The city's decision to void the contract hinges on a conflict-of-interest law, common in government contracts, that precludes a person who works on a contract for the city from later representing the other party to the contract.
The city has charged the team of using the money from the city to pay down the team's debt instead of using the money to manage the arena. The Coyotes reported losing almost $35 million this year, putting them closer to the $50 million in losses that would allow the team to leave Arizona. Meanwhile, the city is projected to lose $8.7 million this year on the arena, up from $8.1 million a year ago. The Coyotes went 24-50-8 this season, their worse season in franchise history, and missed the playoffs for the third straight season.

Meanwhile, as the team had promised, they are seeking a restraining order to stop the city from voiding the lease in an attempt to remain at Gila River Arena, their home since 2003.

As anyone can tell, this whole situation is ridiculous. The city's case is rather slim; after all, the Arizona Republic found that the State Bar of Arizona did not find any merit to the complaint regarding Tindall. The city of Glendale really isn't making a great name for itself right now and it's thanks to them that we have scenes like this:

But even as the Coyotes want to stay in Glendale, and the NHL has certainly done all they can to keep them there, but it is becoming more and more clear that Glendale is the cause of the Coyotes' issues. The Coyotes are not failing because they're in Arizona, they are failing because they're in the wrong part of Metro Phoenix. Most of the team's fanbase is in the East Valley, not to mention much of the wealth in the region, and it is a nice commute from the East Valley to Glendale. After all, the Coyotes originally wanted to build an arena in Scottsdale but when they grew impatient, they accepted the Glendale deal.

And thus, here we are. But just because the Coyotes really don't have a future in Glendale doesn't mean they have to leave Metro Phoenix altogether. Talking Stick Resort Arena is a solid NBA venue and is not that old, having opened in 1992, but it was built for basketball and thus is a mess of a hockey venue thanks to a number of obstructed seats. Therefore a new venue would have to built. There has been some very early discussions about building a new venue but those discussions only began this week so that would a good ways off.

The NHL certainly does not want to inject the dreaded r-word but the city of Glendale more or less forced that onto the table. And there will be options given that the league has had their eyes on expansion.

Seattle and Las Vegas, due to the league's desires to balance the conferences, have been the two top candidates for a new franchise and they would seem to be favorites for the 'Yotes as well. Seattle came close, really damn close to be exact, to landing the team two years ago but while the investor in the SoDo project, Chris Hansen, has expressed openness to hosting an NHL team before landing the long-desired NBA team, there also no plans for it yet either. And now there is a second arena project in the mix as well now. Meanwhile, Las Vegas does have an arena on the way and seems to be a foregone conclusion to be receiving an NHL franchise, with a vote on an expansion team coming potentially in the fall.

Quebec City is nearing completion of a sparkling new arena with the goal of bringing hockey back but moving the Coyotes there would only exacerbate the conference imbalance. Portland could be making a case for an NHL club and they also have an arena that was constructed for both NBA and NHL usage but Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen has never sounded that enthusiastic over an NHL franchise. Kansas City has a still-relatively new venue but it seems their time as a potential NHL home have passed.

Given all the shenanigans to this point, one should not be surprised to see even more twists and turns between the Coyotes and Glendale but, unfortunately for those passionate Coyotes fans caught in the crossfire of all this nonsense, it seems like the days of this relationship are coming to an end.


  1. Move them to Quebec, then in the countermove move Columbus to the Central division, then add the two west coast teams

    1. They're not going to move Columbus back to the West, or at least they shouldn't. A team in Columbus should not be in the West anyways (considering they're not the westernmost team in the East), not to mention that it would be ridiculous to move them back to the West two years after moving them to the East.