The NHL's Demise In Phoenix: Gary Bettman's Mistake

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The NHL's Demise In Phoenix: Gary Bettman's Mistake
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

If provoked, no one prefers to have to swallow their pride.

Not even NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

I can understand that.  But what I cannot understand is Bettman's unwavering, and somewhat annoying, persistence to try and persuade both the NHL, fans, and media that the Phoenix Coyotes can be a viable NHL team in the future.

Bettman could have swallowed his pride and admitted that moving the former Winnipeg Jets south to the Arizona desert was not a viable business deal.

Except, Bettman defends his position and uses both Pittsburgh and Washington as prime examples of franchises that have rebounded.

First of all, both Pittsburgh and Washington have been around since 1967 and 1974 respectively.  They have built their franchises around many different players and have gone through the regular ups and downs as has any other NHL franchise.

Both have tasted playoff success and defeat and have seen players come and go.

But what both Pittsburgh and Washington had was a dedicated fan base and a hockey market that cared for their team. Cared for their team even with other multiple sports franchises in the area.

The Coyotes have had amongst the worst attendance records in the NHL, having gone from an average of 15,582 (22nd in NHL) in 2006 to an average of 14,875 (28th in NHL) in 2009.

The 2004-05 NHL lockout hurt the Coyotes badly as they had finished 19th in NHL attendance, the highest since 2001, yet fans began to lose interest when the NHL returned.

Combined with the emergence of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals as Super Bowl finalists and the perennially powerful Arizona Diamondbacks of the MLB and Phoenix Suns of the NBA, the Coyotes have been lost in the mix in the Arizona sporting scene.

Since the move from Manitoba, the Coyotes have lost over $300 million.  On the ice, the Coyotes have only seen post-season action five times, never advancing, only winning a combined 10 games in those five playoff appearances.  Even worse, the team has only finished over .500 five times.

In a place where ice and snow are rarely, if ever, seen, the Coyotes lack of success and big name talent as of late, has crippled the franchise. And now Bettman, for the third time, has been faced with the issue of what to do with the team.

In the first move, Bettman cited having a business model for growth into both American and European markets as a good enough reason to move the Jets, despite the over 20,000 supporters who cried "Save Our Jets".

Now, Bettman's business model is starting to show some cracks and he is surely not going to be the first to admit he made a mistake.

Still fighting to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix, Bettman's delusion that a team in the desert can make money still lives on.

Let's hope that, for all hockey fans, Bettman smartens up sometime soon.

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