The future of the NHL in Arizona appears to be in jeopardy. Again.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman sent a letter to the Arizona State Legislature this week firmly stating that the Arizona Coyotes need a new arena in a new city if the franchise is to stay in the desert. The team, which has played at Gila River Arena in Glendale since 2003, continues to struggle to fill seats and succeed financially. They have finished in the bottom three in attendance every year since 2007.
“The Coyotes current location in Glendale at Gila River River Arena is not economically capable of supporting a successful NHL franchise. For the past 15 years, a succession of ownership groups and the League have tried everything imaginable to make the Glendale location financially sustainable. Our combined efforts all have yielded the same result — a consistent economic loss.”
“The simple truth? The Arizona Coyotes must have a new arena location to succeed. The Coyotes cannot and will not remain in Glendale.“
While reinforcing the league’s commitment to growing hockey in Arizona, Bettman urged the Arizona Legislature to support Senate Bill 1149, which proposes funding for a new arena in the East Valley.
According to the Commissioner, that location “creates a path to success” for everyone involved. In addition to job creation and revenue opportunities, the new arena would be nearer to the team’s established fan base and corporate sponsors, theoretically putting the team in a much better position to be profitable.
In his call for support, Bettman declared SB 1149 a “practical solution to keeping the Coyotes in this market.”
Unsurprisingly, the letter has once again sparked discussion about possible relocation destinations for the Coyotes, despite Bettman’s stated intentions for keeping the team in Arizona. Seattle and Quebec City would likely be among the favorites to welcome the franchise with open arms, but it might be awhile.
League source says NHL will explore all possible options before considering moving out of Arizona…"We are talking years".
Whether Bettman’s strongly-worded letter will inspire the state to finally provide a suitable and sensible facility for their team remains to be seen. At this point, hockey fans — those both in and out of Arizona — are probably tired of this entire ordeal and just want it over with, one way or another.