Over the past several weeks we've seen the Phoenix Coyotes continue to make a mockery of the NHL by refusing to wallow in their own self pity and vanish into thin air and eventually resurface somewhere in the North where they belong.
Instead of going away, as I've suggested so many times, (see Coyotes, Thrashers, and Panthers lose soon" target="_blank">Hockey Traditionalists Better Hope Coyotes, Thrashers, and Panthers lose soon ) only the fast-fading Atlanta Thrashers and Florida Panthers have taken my advice.
The defiant invaders of the desert instead just ended a ridiculous nine game winning streak.
You read that correctly, a nine game winning streak, not a nine game points streak or nine game unbeaten streak.
No, Phoenix (at 98 points 46-23-6) is getting better and are now just three points out of the top spot in the Western Conference standings. While they may have a 26-10-2 home record, and attendance has been up significantly lately (due to the bandwagon effect and pending playoff apperance). Reports of sellouts have even surfaced.
But still one has to wonder if this new-found love of hockey these desert rats have discovered is even real. Do the games even resonates with fans that pay money to watch a few people they've likely never even heard of skate around and try and put the puck in the net?
If a poll was taken, how many of these fans (non-Canadian snowbirds aside) would even understand some of the terminology used in the game. Johnny-come-lately Coyotes fans, I ask you, what is a fore-check? What is a two-line pass? Do you know when icing is called and for what reason? What is a shift and when does it change? What is a sniper?
Average hockey fans and of course hard core hockey fans will know all the answers to these questions, as I've intentionally left them easy. I could confuse them like hell with terms such as two-line-pass and going "top shelf" but that coded language would make even the Navajo code talkers of World War II proud.
But I'm not going to futher insult your intelligence. The fact you are just catching on to the game that has sadly been in your backyard since 1996 tells me everything I need to know. I've seen it with the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes and the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning (although they have a legit base now).
Return to Winnipeg rumors re-circulate
After months of inactivity coming out of Manitoba, with the last updates that I could find being around December of last year, rumors recently started up again about a possible deal with the NHL returning the team to Winnipeg as early as next season. Campbell's cuts, rumors of relocation.
Depending on who and what you believe, there are rumors suggesting that the richest man in Canada, billionaire David Thomson would purchase the team and relocate them to Winnipeg where they would play in the MTS Centre for next season.
Upon initally reading this article late last week, I was skeptical since this was the first Winnipeg rumor I'd heard since last year. It had been so dormant that I questioned Winnipeg's desire to even want a team, even suggesting that Manitoba likely pressured by inquiring fans, jealous of Quebec City's progress in the Candian headlines, made a few statements just to make them.
But now, I'm wondering what started up all these rumors again. Media don't just sit around writing just for the sake of writing and you can get in big trouble starting rumors if they are in fact not true.
At B/R we have to verify our sources if we break news because of an incident with where a writer wrote that Jay Cutler was signed to the Redskins. There was drew heavy and much deserved criticism of the cite and the writer who "broke" it when it was quickly proven to be false. In my case, if you read my artices, they always include the appropriate links and credits at the end of the articles for this purpose.
Still its interesting that the possible pieces for what would be re-branded the new Jets ownership group seem to be falling into place. What is rumored is Thomson, who many Winnipeggers, Canadians, and hockey fans who long for the NHL's return to Winnipeg, are certainly familar with would be part of a partnership with the AHL's Manitoba Moose owner Mark Chipman.
While that makes perfect logical sense, did you spot the irregularity in the story already?
The first link, suggests its the Coyotes who would move to Winnipeg next season while the second link, courtesy of SLAM! Sports, even though the author is criticizing the rumors and urging caution, suggests it is indeed the Thrashers who would be on the move, even though he disputes the authenticity of such a move.
So right there you can see the power of rumors and the importance to read what you will with an open mind.
- Further rumors suggest that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was spotted on several occasions by fans anxious for the NHL's return.
While this would seem to be the most plausible as airline tickets and interviews are easy to verify, its also the most dangerous. On one hand, hockey fans and Winnipeggers in general aren't stupid. If they saw Mr. Bettman then they saw Mr. Bettman. However, both he and deputy commissioner Bob Daly insist they haven't been in Winnipeg for "the past week or any other time in many years "
So as much as we might like the Jets to return in time for the 2010-11 season, until it happens we can't think too much into it. Like all major announcements, if there is ever anything to report it will be reported and I believe this to be the case.
Still it is curious that the Atlanta to Winnipeg rumors just won't go away. We've heard them before as recently as 2009. It appears if given the choice between the NHL's struggling Southern Sisters the Thrashers, Coyotes, Predators, and Panthers, among others, the fact of the matter remains that the wheel keeps stopping on Atlanta when it comes to this connection to Winnipeg.
But that was then and this is now right?
Well, as recently as last Saturday on a telecast of Hockey Night in Canada Don Cherry address the relocation rumors of not just Atlanta but the more pressing considering they are orphans, and the more competative, Phoenix Coyotes to which Cherry made the perfect pitch for Winnipeg .
That alone makes me wonder if a deal is in fact, imminent. Stay tuned.
Based on the rumors if I had to guess, I'd list the following in order of the most endangered to the least endangered
- Phoenix Coyotes-not only their spectatular record has to be turning some heads of possible suitors but with no owner and losing tons of money every year, their situation needs to be resolved soonest.
- Atlanta Thrashers-if Winnipeg doesn't get them, it appears someone will soon. Hockey has failed once in Atlanta, even Phoenix can't say that. Also, with a dwindling base, one that never seemed that interested due to the large number of transplants in the city with other interests, and fading playoff hopes, its probably a matter of time, just a matter of where they end up.
- Nashville Predators. Campbell reports they just extended their lease for two more seasons which makes sense. A perennial playoff contender themselves, they are sure to attract someone sooner than later. Perhaps in time for a 2013 relocation for Quebec whose in the process of completing a feasibility study and has tentative plans to build a new NHL ready arena but with no way to pay for it yet.
- Florida Panthers-make the list only because of their location and low attendace. Not much is known on their fate.
Its becoming more and more obvious to me that eventually Quebec and Winnipeg will get their teams either through expansion or relocation. Its also becoming more obvious to me that we traditionalists may have to suffer a swap similar to 1992 when Ottawa and Tampa both joined the league via expansion.
One team went to hockey-crazed Canada in Ottawa, and another went to hockey-dormant Florida. Under this scenario, perhaps the Coyotes move to Winnipeg but shortly thereafter the Thrashers would move to Seattle as Campbell suggests the rumors say, or Kansas City which long have had rumors of adding a team themselves.
Similarily maybe the Predators end up in Quebec but the Panthers would be destined for Seattle. We just have to wait and see, still I am not so sure how I feel about that.
If you notice, the title of this piece isn't as specific as an article I wrote last week: In a Perfect World, Imposter Coyotes Would Win Cup, Then Move to Quebec. That is because while I want these Southern teams to eventually relocate North, a move North just to move them North (Seattle, Kansas City) doesn't make as much sense as a Hartford or even a Hamilton (Ontario) who I am growing more fondly.
Still at the end of the day, if it takes a team in Seattle or Kansas City to make Quebec, Hartford, or Winnipeg happen, so be it.
After all its for the greater good of the sport and the greater good is the Coyotes anywhere then where they are now.
NHL's expiring contract with Versus
The NHL's horridly unpopular televison contract with Versus which in some markets is harder to find then someone from the Witness Protection Program, expires conveinently after next season. Keep that in mind. If the NHL's intent is to get back to the base what better way to win back your fans not only with new teams in familar cities but also with a television channel more readily available? (ESPN)
This would allow the return of ESPN NHL 2Night which would allow more fans to see highlights from more teams than just the 30 second clips on whatever Sidney Crosby and Alexander Olvechkin did from the night before on SportsCenter as it currently is now.
Next, can you imagine the scheduling capabilities? Tonight on ESPN2, the Winnipeg Jets rebirth is complete as they take on the Minnesota Wild, in a regional rivalry or the Winnipeg Jets take on their old nemesis the Edmonton Oilers in a battle for Canada (or is it small-market superiority?) for the first time since they left?
Match them up against any of their old Campbell conference rivals or better yet, Canadian rivals.
I know I'd tune in.
One thing's for sure, that new TV deal better include a mix of Nordiques, Jets, and Whalers games or wherever these Southern teams end up. I for one want to see how the fans react.
With any luck, maybe we can create new memories like this .
Or sadly, even this .
If a picture is worth a thousand words, how about a video-or two? If that doesn't inspire you to root againt Phoenix next month when the playoffs begin, nothing will.
Damn you, NHL for taking them away and may your run in the playoffs be as short as your season-ticket list, Coyotes.
You're a fraud.
Enjoy it while you can, fake fans.
Once the NHL tires of babysitting you, all bets are off, including a possible return to Winnipeg, Quebec, or who-the-Hell-cares as long as its not in Arizona.
Information and references courtesy of the Toronto Sun, SLAM! Sports-CANOE.ca, TSN, Youtube, Ken Campbell and The Hockey News, Don Cherry and Hockey Night in Canada.