Last month, the city of Glendale, Arizona announced it isn’t extending its lease on Gila River Arena with the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes and the city both lacked a long-term lease agreement on the arena the Coyotes have called home since 2003 and have been using year-to-year leases. The Coyotes are good for this season but need to find a new home for the 2022-2023 season.
Cue the almost inevitable “the Coyotes should relocate jokes”. I hate to break it to the cities who want an NHL team (Quebec City I’m talking about you), the Coyotes aren’t going anywhere. Commissioner Gary Bettman has long been a champion of the Phoenix hockey market and immediately called off the idea in a radio interview with WFAN 660 am. Literally, it was immediately, as the radio interview took place only a few minutes after the city of Glendale tweeted out their official announcement.
Compared to other relocated NHL franchises, the Coyotes have a few major things in their favor. They have an owner with deep pockets in Alex Muerelo. That’s something the Atlanta Thrashers lacked when they finally left the city of Coca-Cola and blown Super Bowl leads (it was 28-3, never forget) to become the second Winnipeg Jets.
Phoenix also has a little advantage called “being in America”. Look Quebec City, I love you guys and Videotron Centre is a beautiful arena, but there’s a lot of things working against Canada when it comes to the business side of the NHL. First, the exchange rates aren’t exactly favorable. That leads to the continued controversy over player escrow payments. The league avoided Canadian markets for their past expansion because of economic concerns. Now add in added concerns over border crossing and the economic impact of no fans in Canadian stands for the past two years and it doesn’t look like the NHL is changing their star-spangled position.
In the fight between the Arizona Coyotes and the city of Glendale (which is already a more entertaining fight than Floyd Mayweather vs Jake Paul waste of money a few months ago), I got to take the side of the Coyotes. I never thought I’d take their side and defend them, but it seems weird the city of Glendale would evict the only permanent tenant the arena has under the excuse of wanting to build up the arena. Their only other tenant is the Arizona State hockey team, which only uses the arena on a part-time basis.
The Arizona Coyotes have been kicked out of their stadium by the city of Glendale. Rest assured, Coyotes fans, the team is staying in Arizona.
Bettman said in his interview he thinks the city of Glendale is just trying to play hardball with negotiating. Bettman went on to say he believed the city wants the Coyotes to serve a long-term lease. Meanwhile, money bags Muerelo (their owner, who I just created a catchy new nickname for) wants to build a new arena in Tempe. It’s no secret the Coyotes have long been upset with Gila River Arena and wanted a new arena of their own. Even if the Tempe arena gets approved, there’s no way it would be ready for the 2022-2023 season.
So what are the Coyotes’ options then? Even if the city of Glendale is trying to play hardball and back the Coyotes into a corner, they should realize Gila River Arena isn’t the only NHL-level arena in the arena. The Coyotes could always share the Footprint Center with the Phoenix Suns of the NBA. After all, that was the arena they used when they originally moved to Phoenix back in 1996. The Suns themselves wanted a new arena, but recently ended up extensively renovating their current home. They probably wouldn’t want to share their existing arena, so moving to the Footprint Center would only serve as a short-term solution while waiting for the Tempe Arena.
Of course, the city of Glendale can always change course. The Coyotes seem determined to get their new Tempe Arena, but maybe Glendale will welcome them back while they wait. Even if their time in Glendale is about to end, the Coyotes are staying in Arizona. Sorry, Quebec City.