Since the last time I wrote on the issue, Coyotes, Thrashers, and Panthers lose soon" target="_blank">Hockey Traditionalists Better Hope Coyotes, Thrashers, and Panthers lose soon, the Phoenix Coyotes went from 24-13-3 to the 43-22-5 record they hold today.
While they are still holding firm to their forth place hold in the Western Conference standings, their record 19-9-2 continues to impress few and depress others.
Since my last article on this subject above, written in December, the team has made a flurry of impressive deadline deals that even the most passive Coyotes fan must appreciate—Derek Morris from the Boston Bruins, Matthieu Schneider from the Vancouver Cancuks, and most important and creatively, Wojtek Wolski, whom I've always coveted for my own team, from the Colorado Avalanche-ironically, the former Quebec Nordiques.
Some might be asking: "How exactly are the Coyotes, the NHL's newest fad, being an imposter?"
Webster's defines "imposter" as : im-pos-ter: "a person who deceives or cheats others, esp. by pretending to be someone or something that he or she is not"
Now it seems a bit more clear for Phoenix, and Arizona for that matter, is neither:
A traditional hockey hotbed.
A thriving NHL market.
A real, year-in-and-year-out contender (nice way of saying a fluke).
Good for the NHL or good for hockey in general from a base standpoint.
What they are doing is making a mockery of the game of hockey, in the desert of all places. They are cheating the fans who follow the sport and don't want to see non-traditional markets like Atlanta, Florida, Tampa, Dallas, Nashville, and Phoenix not to mention the three California markets make the playoffs and subsequently have success.
What it does is hurt the real fan bases in the North where Lord Stanley's Cup is revered as the most hallowed in all of sports. A player who hasn't won the Cup, will refuse to touch it until he wins it, so as to not jinx his chances. Did the few Arizonans reading this article, actually know that? My guess is this passion is logically more intense among Canadians like Sidney Crosby who it was reported just did this last year only after winning The Cup.
Hey Phoenix, its not that we don't like you personally, we just don't like where you are or what you represent. However, it proves my point that I can place this article on your board here and may get a handful of comments from 'Yotes fans when in reality I should be getting dozens of refutes to my claims. That just shows your apathetic support.
You have the dubious distinction of being the old Winnipeg Jets which makes your remarkable resurgence in the desert all the more appalling to a very hallowed base of core fans still bitter by the teams original move to the desert from the Manitoba province in the mid 1990's.
Want more proof? A recent MSNBC article, "Coyotes keep winning on Ice, losing at Gate," noted that despite your record winning pace, you're still on pace to lose over $20 million dollars this year alone, and those numbers are actually reduced significantly from the preseason $50 million mark.
Could the 2009-10 Phoenix Coyotes emulate the 1994-1995 Quebec Nordiques?
In 1994-95 the Quebec Nordiques, pictured above, to whom I am hoping you relocate, had the top overall seed in the then-Prince of Wales Conference (now the Eastern Conference for you Johnny-come-lately bandwagon fans).
The 30-13-5 star-studded team still with peach fuzz, lost in the opening round to the New York Rangers in six games.
After that season, the team moved to Denver, Colorado in the United States, became the Avalanche, and abruptly won the Stanley Cup the very next year with the talent assembled in Quebec after years of suffering and excellent drafts, only to see those prospects and hard work pay off in another market and in another country altogether.
You know, kind of how Winnipeg and Manitoba are probably feeling about you this season now.
I wrote about it all here. Nordiques, Jets, Whalers, Oh My: Could the NHL Revive Historic Teams?
Seventeen years after enduring a historic mistake in leaving Quebec, the league has a chance to see the reverse, should the somehow-stacked Coyotes god forbid, win it all, and then hopefully relocate, talent-in-hand, back to Quebec, Winnipeg, Hartford, or Hamilton, Ontario. Anywhere but non-traditional, non deserving, and non-understanding Arizona.
The only problem is the timing.
Quebec City, which has begun feasibility studies on the impact of re-acquiring an NHL team, signed petitions of fan support, pledged $50 million in support from its mayor, Regis Lebeaume, and found a credible corporate partner in Quebecor, (you know, the thing your failing to do with the apparent fraud that is Ice Edge Holdings whose bid looks dimmer by the day).
The only problem is funding the rest of the $400 million project for a new NHL-ready arena in the Quebec province since the rest of the money would have to come from outside the province dubbed "English Canada" that is historically leery of dealing with ultra-nationalist French Canadian Quebec, and from the Quebec province itself.
Still that said, for those who think I'm just blowing Nationalistic smoke, not only am I not Canadian, but according to an industry expert, Quebec is complying with the NHL and doing everything right by making progress in getting back into the league sooner than later.
In fact, according to Quebec Premier Jean Charest, after recently talking with NHL commissoner, Gary Bettman, he believes its return is inevitable and in fact, "going to happen."
In a perfect world, the 'Yotes would win the Cup, skate around Jobing.com Arena in front of a few thousand core fans, only to announce a short time after the ticker-tape parade that the team, fresh with new talent and a shot at a dynasty, will be relocating North following the next season (2010-11) in time for the 2012 season.
Stanley Cup Title: Help or Hurt relocation to Canada?
The only problem is whether a Stanley Cup win would help or hinder the Coyotes future in Arizona.
On one hand, bandwagon fans are apt to come out of the woodwork as everyone likes a winner. Snowbirds from the North who grew up with the sport might inadvertently save your team in the desert by inflating both your upcoming playoff run and any subsequent seasons' attendance based on this mirage of success.
On the other, the lack of attendance at both any playoff games, and a Stanley Cup parade, which will be on national television by the way, are prone to be scrutinized by fans and opponents alike as evidence of a lack of caring.
It could create for some good television. Maybe Comedy Central will pick it up?
In addition, a good team in Phoenix could increase the effort among the many vulturous markets in Canada looking to acquire both a cash-strapped, and playoff-built American franchise in order to move it back North.
In the Nordiques final season, 1994-95, at 14,395 fans, they finished 17th out of 26 teams in attendance . More than the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, Hartford Whalers, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, and Winnipeg Jets.
Note that in this mix isn't just downtrodden Southern teams where this would be expected but a little bit of everything from an Original Six member (Boston) to hockey hotbeds of Vancouver and Edmonton which flourished in attendance in the 1980s glory years.
This support is proof enough that Quebec didn't abandon their team, the league in search of a new identity with another American market to accommodate rising salaries, did. How fitting will it be when the league returns the favor at the expense of the mistake in the desert?
And how is Phoenix doing in attendance during their magical 2009-10 season? An un-inspring and unsurprising, 30th at 11,420 fans per game . Believe it or not, that number has actually gone up significantly, likely due to the bandwagon effect.
This number obviously still far less than Quebec despite being 12th in the league in market size at 3.8 million residents.
What's the excuse now, Phoenix?
One thing is for certain, when the playoffs begin, not only will I be cheering against and keeping an eye on Phoenix and any Southern hockey markets as I have been all season, but I will also be keeping an eye on Quebecor and the Canadian situation with the other in hopes of some interesting and promising ground breaking (get it?) developments in the future.
References and statistics provided by ESPN.com, MSNBC.com, the Toronto Sun, the Vancouver Sun, Andrew's Dallas Stars (attendance) page, the Ottawa Sports Guy (NHL Market Size survey) and yourdictionary.com