Attendance at a power-house Division II football game last Saturday?
Perhaps the attendance at a football-crazed Texas High School football game last Friday. You know, under the lights?
Try, the combined attendance at TWO National Hockey League regular season games at Jobing.com Arena in downtown Glendale, AZ last week between the beleaguered hometown Phoenix team and two of their opponents.
The first, a game played Thursday night October 21st versus the L.A. Kings drew a much-publicized (and criticized) announced crowd of 6,706.
As you can imagine, this number has been floating around the internet in all sorts of anti-Coyote chat rooms, blogs, forums and articles as hilarious justification that the team in the desert, aka, the "Desert Dogs" should rightfully lose their team to a Canadian market, preferably Winnipeg, Manitoba from whence they came.
But anyone can have a bad day right? I mean, it was a Friday. Surely there was some hot AAAAA football action from one of the powerhouse area high schools right?
Or maybe it wouldn't be so sad if an NBA preseason game between the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets from Phoenix didn't draw twice as much as them at 15,440 fans.
Fine, give 'em that game, as pathetic as that attendance may be.
If only they didn't follow up that folly the very next night, Saturday October 22nd with an almost-abysmal 8,189 fans, if added together equal the 14,895 that opened this article.
What could be driving this fan apathy?
I know! The nearby Arizona State Sundevils (Tempe) had a home game!
No, sorry. They were too busy playing the University of Cal in California. (However, this makes a good excuse for why fans may have stayed home to watch this game.)
Shhh. Don't let Gary Bettman use that excuse!
Oh, and the Suns were off that night. No dice there.
Let's see. Baseball in the desert is over as far as the Diamondbacks are concerned and the Arizona Fall League hasn't started yet, and even if they had, we are splitting hairs as to the few hundred fans that likely show up. The Cardinals play on Sunday, NASCAR was at Martinsville, VA, so what is it?
The economy? Try again, even though an article in defense of this lackluster showing in the Phoenix Business Journal (Google "Don't Blame Coyotes for Ugly Attendance Night," since I can't post links here under the new format) uses this excuse.
The economy is bad everywhere. Get over it. Next!
Yahoo Sports! Greg Wyshynski also noted that there always seems to be a Canadian or two on the watch for such misfortune in non-traditional markets like Phoenix and man, were they right when Jeff Marek wrote that an AHL game (thats top-level minor league hockey for those who don't know) between the Manitoba Mythbusters and Hamilton Bulldogs almost outdid Phoenix with a 6,116 people.
I know, I know "But they are Canadians, of course they outdrew us, they love hockey!"
Yes, and by using this lame excuse, you are admitting you don't—as if your poor showing didn't already prove enough. Confirming what we already knew.
Additionally, to see the glorious proof of this travesty in Phoenix, google "What 6,706 fans look like at a Phoenix Coyotes home game," and you'll get a nice, clear picture.
And if you think this is fun, Columbus drew 9,802 on October 20th (54 percent capacity) and 10,784 October 22 (59.5 percent capacity). Atlanta (8,820 October 20th 47.6 percent capacity and 9,138 October 22nd 49.3 percent capacity) also isn't faring much better.
Thanks to early-season apathy, these cities have given people like me not only more fodder on which to play, but also a new hobby as I will personally be monitoring and analyzing the attendance all season long and turning it into future articles on which to build a case for Canada. So stay tuned for that.
Right now I predict 3 things:
1. The struggling Phoenix Coyotes, currently 14th in the Western Conference with six points, will finish no higher than 12th in points.
2. At two out of three games already, and on pace for 27, the team will draw 25 home games with an announced attendance of under 10,000.
3. Prospective owner from Chicago, Matthew Hulsizer, will come to his senses and pull out of a possible bid (after seeing the latest attendance figures), clearing the path for the NHL's return to Winnipeg as their final and only option remaining, beating the league's self-imposed December 31st deadline.
Mr. Hulsizer, if you read this or have any common sense or dignity, you'll stay away from this money pit before you lose all your $140 million reported investment. Hockey cannot be won in the desert. Last year's obvious, overachieving playoff team proved that. Imagine the horrors you'll face every year if the team starts out bad as it has this year, or worse, stays that way?
You can just about cut those already paltry numbers in half—or more.
Seriously, your smarter than to get involved in that, aren't you?
Ask yourself why no local owner can be found. That should tell you everything you need to know about the long term viability of the franchise in the desert. Just let natural selection run its course and allow the Coyotes to return to Canada where they belong.
In a perfect world NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and his assistant Bob Daly would do the right thing and solve all of this with a series of the following:
Phoenix moves to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Atlanta moves to Quebec City, Quebec after playing a lame duck season in the Colisee in Quebec until a new arena is built.
And Columbus moves to Hamilton, Ontario (only because Hartford, Connecticut, where they should be playing, has no venue for them).
Statistics and information from Yahoo Sports.com, the Phoenix Business Journal, ESPN.com, directly contributed to the content of this article.
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