The Sun Might Be Setting On The Coyotes In The Desert

Kristian SiutaCorrespondent IIJune 27, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 02:  Matthew Lombardi #15 (L) of the Phoenix Coyotes celebrates with teammates after Scottie Upshall #8 scored a third period goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the NHL game at Arena on April 2, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Kings 2-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

When you think of Phoenix, Arizona, I am sure that one of the last things that would come to mind is hockey. Unfortunately, the sports fans of metro Phoenix neglect the sport of hockey as well.

It might be due to the Phoenix Suns ruling the town, or the surprise run to the Super Bowl by the Cardinals. Never-the-less, the Coyotes have been forgotten in the past, up until now.

On May 4, 2009, the Phoenix Coyotes filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection, without notification to the NHL league office. The National Hockey League then acted with force, striping owner Jerry Moyes of his powers and taking control of the team. 

The Coyotes’ bankruptcy filing also included a proposed sale of the franchise for $212.5 million to PSE Sports and Entertainment, a Delaware-based partnership that would then in turn move the team to Southern Ontario.

Toronto businessman Jim Balsillie would become the new owner of the team. However, the bankruptcy filing doesn’t mean a move is a certainty, as potential buyers will have an opportunity to outbid PSE’s proposal. Much to the fans of Phoenix’s chagrin, there doesn’t seem to be much commotion to outbid Balsillie.

In March, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stated, “Our goal is to bring in new capital and make this franchise solvent.” This being in regard to the NHL loaning the Coyotes money in February to help keep the team afloat. 

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had stressed at the time that the financially struggling team wouldn’t be relocated. Bettman was even quoted as saying, “That’s our direction, and at this point moving the franchise elsewhere is not on the table.”

Clearly, “at this point” in Bettman's quote, was referring to March. Apparently, Gary Bettman wanted to wait for the temperature to rise and then seek to move the franchise to a colder climate. 

A June 30 date was initially set to settle the franchise’s fate to include the team in the 2009-10 NHL schedule. However, the date has now been moved to Aug. 5. This sounds like NHL is buying time for the Phoenix franchise to repair their “sinking ship” and keeping the Coyotes alive for a little longer.

Much to the dismay of Phoenix sports fans, the Coyotes are not on the brink of making a Stanley Cup run or even on the verge of making the playoffs. With the teams dismal results recently the average fan does not have the passion to drive an hour across town in bumper to bumper traffic to watch a mediocre product. 

As a major market sports town, Phoenix has neglected their Coyotes. The Diamondbacks brought the Valley of the Sun their first ever Championship, and the Suns have been the “toast of the town” since 1968.

The Cardinals leaving Sun Devil Stadium brought football crazy fans back into the seats with the much modernized University of Phoenix Stadium. 

The Coyotes have not done anything to help their cause and increase the fan experience. The jerseys have changed, the coaches have changed, and the players have changed. Nothing has helped them succeed in game results or financially. 

Their last straw might have to be to forcing current coach, Wayne Gretzky to suit up for one final season and take on a dual role as player-coach as a last gasp effort to save the franchise and the Phoenix fans. That is if the NHL give them a chance come August 5.