The big news in the NHL broke Thursday afternoon when it was revealed the contentious relationship between the city of Glendale and the Arizona Coyotes took what may be its final turn as city officials told the team they would terminate their lease following the upcoming 2021-22 NHL season.
So, that means this season will be the Coyotes’ last at Gila River Arena.
“We’ve reached that point of no return,” city manager Kevin Phelps told The Athletic. “There’s no wavering.”
The two sides have been working on one-year lease agreements that either side could terminate. Thursday, the city said it was doing just that.
Citing a study that it can replace the local tax revenue the team creates with a 41-game home schedule by bringing in more concerts and the like, the city decided it was best if the team just moved on.
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The Coyotes have been looking to leave Glendale for years and are hoping to build one closer to the Valley’s population center in Tempe but that is seemingly nowhere close to being approved.
Per the Athletic, the team has to vacate the arena — including its office space — by June 30, 2022.
Craig Morgan, the longtime beat writer with AZ Coyotes Insider, wrote while team officials and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman look at this as just a negotiating ploy (Glendale has been trying to get the team to sign on long-term while it prefers short-term leases as it looks elsewhere), Phelps said this “is not a leveraging play.”
Bettman responded to Morgan in a text message: “First, the Coyotes, as everyone knows, are working on a new arena that is more fan friendly. Second, this is obviously a negotiating ploy by Glendale, which is insisting on a 20-year lease. Third, the Coyotes are committed to Arizona.”
The team has long struggled to draw fans to Glendale, a Phoenix suburb about a 40-minute drive from downtown (on a good day).
The arena is next to the Arizona Cardinals’ football stadium with an entertainment district and outlet mall built within walking distance of the arena.
The mismanagement of the franchise over the years — including by its new ownership as reported on by The Athletic — certainly has not helped.
Here is a good look at the timeline of the Coyotes in the Phoenix area — and all the problems they have had over the years.
If the Coyotes were to stay in the Phoenix area past this coming season, where would they play?
The Arizona Republic offered up a couple of options (none of them good) with the leader being the Coyotes’ original home — the former US Airways Center which is located in downtown Phoenix.
That arena was built for the NBA Suns and did not have hockey in mind when it was designed. When the Coyotes played there, the sightlines were considered worst in the league with a number of prime seats not available because you could not see large portions of the ice.
Other options include a new 5,000 seat facility being built for the Arizona State hockey, wrestling and gymnastic teams which should be finished next summer.
The Coyotes could also opt for the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, a 15,000 seat venue which was built in 1965 and once was home to the minor league Phoenix Roadrunners as well as the original home of the Suns. The arena looks a lot like the Calgary Saddledome.
Of course, the franchise could relocate entirely.
The would take some sort of agreement between ownership, the league and its players’ union. As is the case in South Florida, commissioner Gary Bettman has fought to keep teams right where they are.
Where the Coyotes could end up is up for plenty of conjecture — either in Tempe or somewhere else. Houston has been named as a potential future spot for the NHL.
The AHL Houston Aeros drew well playing at the home of the Houston Rockets, but left town in 2013 after not being able to come up with a new lease agreement with the owner of the NBA team.
A couple South Florida products currently play for the Coyotes including defensemen Jakub Chychrun — whose father Jeff is a member of the Panthers television broadcast team — and Shayne Gostisbehere.
FLORIDA PANTHERS LINKS
The first time Anton Lundell will participate in a Florida Panthers jersey will be at the team’s rookie camp and ‘showcase’ event in the Tampa area next month. (FHN)
— The Athletic looks at which teams increased their betting odds for winning the Stanley Cup the most in the past month. The Panthers are right up there. (TA)
— The Panthers have a new partnership with BMW after years of being with Lexus. (Panthers)
AROUND THE NHL
Owen Power has reportedly told the Buffalo Sabres he is going to wait to make his NHL debut as the defenseman will return to the University of Michigan for his sophomore season.
Power will be the first overall pick not to make his NHL debut the following season since Erik Johnson went back to Minnesota for a year after being taken by the Blues in 2006. (Buffalo News)
— Auston Matthews will be on the cover of NHL22. (SN)
— It doesn’t look like Zdeno Chara will be returning to the Bruins. (BHN)
— The Red Wings created even more cap space by buying out Frans Nielsen. (DHN)
— Fans will have to prove vaccination to attend San Jose Sharks games. (SJHN)