May 3, 1995 was the last time that NHL Hockey was played in Winnipeg before the Jets moved down south to Phoenix. Our beloved Commissioner, Gary Bettman, called it the new NHL, and that it would make the league “bigger and better” however, for the city of Winnipeg, better was the farthest thing from what the NHL was becoming.
Now it’s 2010, and many people can’t help but agree with Winnipeg. Jim Balsillie just happened to be one of those people, and it wasn’t the first time that good ol’ Jim had tried to move an NHL franchise to Canada.
In 2006, the Nashville Predators were in a financial turmoil that is very similar to the current situation of the Phoenix Coyotes. All was set, and the Preds were ready to relocate to Hamilton, ONT; when Mr. Balsillie decided that he was going to put season tickets on sale before the team was actually moved. The result of this was Hamilton getting screwed out of a hockey team because of poor decision-making.
In June of ’09, the Phoenix Coyotes’ owner at the time, Jerry Moyes, filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. As expected, Balsillie was the first in line to take the Coyotes away from their current home.
While any hockey fan of Phoenix would have been upset at this, and reasonably so, the numbers didn’t and couldn’t lie. The Coyotes were failing in every category. Wins, Media Coverage and Attendance were all worse than the Jets in their final season.
Gary Bettman kept repeating his typed up and well memorized statement, “We are not exploring relocation as an option for any NHL Franchise as of now”. Yet, I believe everybody knew that this had turned into a personal battle between Bettman and Balsillie. Gary had previously relocated both Quebec and Winnipeg out of Canada into a Southern Market, so why would he be hesitant to do it again?
Yet, the battle between fans, and businessmen continued on until September, when Judge Redfield T. Baum of the Arizona Courts, ruled for Moyes to hand the team over to the NHL, which he did. Just like that, Mr. Balsillie’s attempt at “Making it Seven” was over.
Now, we are well more than halfway through the 2009-2010 NHL Season, and the average attendance of the Phoenix Coyotes is 11,005. Considering the amount of people that have been attending games recently—which has been hovering around the 14,000 mark—that is much better than many people would’ve predicted.
There are still many Canadians out there—myself included—that would like to see the ‘Yotes relocated to either Hamilton or Winnipeg, but they have been proving themselves as of the last couple of months, and if the new ownership group can make things work, the Phoenix Coyotes could definitely turn things around financially.
What they need is advertising, and a way to get themselves out of the last three pages of the newspaper. To get some revenue, playing 5 games a year in Saskatoon seems like a great way to get started, and I don’t see why the BoG’s are so hell-bent against it.
Only the clock on the wall of stability will tell if the Coyotes will stay in Phoenix long-term. We will definitely have to stay tuned to this ongoing story. Thank you for reading.