Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Coyote Ugly

Phoenix Coyotes - Fox Searchlight Pictures
As the eccentric Juno MacGuff, from the movie Juno, once said, "Oh, and she inexplicably mails me a cactus every Valentine's Day. And I'm like, "Thanks a heap coyote ugly. This cactus-gram stings even worse than your abandonment." The never-lost-for-words Juno was referring to her estranged mother in that quote.

Well, I'm sure the hockey fans of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada feel Juno's pain. They know abandonment all too well.

In a nutshell, the Phoenix Coyotes are a financial mess. As we all know, the Coyotes used to be the Winnipeg Jets until the team's owner and the NHL brass, led by Commissioner Gary Bettman, decided that it would be a "brilliant" idea to play ice hockey in the desert. So in 1996 the Jets, who were going through a rough period in Winnipeg, decided to abandon the city and take their talents to Glendale Arizona and become the Phoenix Coyotes.

In another nutshell, the idea has failed and failed miserably. The Coyotes have lost money every year since moving to Arizona and their attendance is so poor that I think the players could hear crickets while playing their games. In 2009, former owner Jerry Moyes put the team into bankruptcy and a whole legal mess ensued. There has been so much red tape in the last few years that it's hard to keep up with the saga. I believe as of today the NHL owns the team and is desperately looking for a buyer with no baggage.

If anyone is interested in reading the details of all the drama, you can go to this Wikipedia link, Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy, where the entire mess is outlined in detail.

The latest news is that the team might (just might) be heading back to Winnipeg. Oh really? You don't say?

In his website, Winnipeg Jets Online, Lauren Robb (a die-hard Jets fan) once wrote: "Winnipeg hockey fans, whose hearts were ripped out when their beloved Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes over a decade ago, are crossing their fingers in hopes the financially strapped NHL franchise could be returning to Canada."

Mr. Robb feels Juno's pain.

My question is: Who in their right mind would think that ice hockey (a sport born in Canada and who's most successful franchises are the 6 remaining Canadian teams and the teams in the northern states) would be successful in the desert sun of Arizona? Is the word "ice" or the term "cold weather" or the word "winter" in the Arizonian dictionary? At last check, hockey is synonymous with winter weather. Or am I wrong?
Commissioner Bettman - Getty Images

But no, the NHL is determined to make the "hot desert" experiment work. They refuse to let the team move back to Canada. They claim the TV market is just too big in Phoenix. Ok, true, Phoenix has 1.6 million people to Winnipeg's 633, 000 but the difference is, of Phoenix' 1.6 million people only what, 3 people are hockey fans? Of Winnipeg's 633,000, what, 630,000 are hockey fans? Hello! Earth to Commissioner Bettman!

The sad part of the saga is that the Coyotes haven't been all that bad in their 16 years in Phoenix. They have an all-time winning record and have made the playoffs 6 times, including last year. Currently they are the 6th seed in the Western Conference standings and it looks like they'll be making their 7th playoff appearance while in Phoenix. Yet they rank 29th out of 30 in attendance.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if Arizonians haven't embraced ice hockey in the 16 years the NHL has tried to shove it down it's throat then they're never gonna embrace it. But try telling that to Commissioner Bettman.

And for the record: Of the 10 teams with the WORST attendance records in the league, 7 of them play in WARM southern states. Hmmm?

Meanwhile, the disheartened hockey-lovers in "COLD WEATHER" Winnipeg are still scratching their heads and asking themselves, "Why us?". So I say, "move the team back to Winnipeg or anywhere in Canada, where it rightfully belongs."

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