Phoenix Coyotes: Should the Coyotes Move Back to Winnipeg?

Kevin GoffContributor IApril 22, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 20:  Shane Doan #19 of the Phoenix Coyotes reacts after being defeated by the Detroit Red Wings in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Arena on April 20, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Red Wings defeated the Coyotes 6-3 to win the series 4-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

As the clock ran out on the Phoenix Coyotes' season, one couldn't help but have the feeling that the time was also running out on their tenure in Phoenix.

The possible movement of the Coyotes franchise is a topic that has sparked countless debates on chat boards across all of North America. 

With the Coyotes still without an owner, that topic of passionate debate across the world wide web is finally going to come to a head this offseason. 

A decision must be made on this franchise.  So let's have a look at whether or not the Phoenix Coyotes should pack their bags and head back to Canada.

The Case for Phoenix:  Keep the Coyotes in the Desert.

Gary Bettman took the reigns as Commissioner of the NHL in 1993.  He came in with a vision of expanding the game of hockey into non-traditional markets in an attempt to grow the game.

This included moves like adding expansion teams in Tampa Bay and Sunrise, Florida

Some established teams were also moved out of their homes into markets that had not seen hockey in any form before.  The Hartford Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes; and the Winnipeg Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes.

One solid argument to keep Phoenix's team where they are is that they have been a successful team.  In the 15 years that the Coyotes have been in Phoenix, they have made the playoffs seven times, though never advancing out of the first round.

They have struggled since the lockout, but have made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons under the immense strain of not having a steady owner.

Next, the Coyotes do have an owner lined up.  Matthew Hulsizer, a Chicago business man, is all set to take the reigns of the Coyotes, and keep them in Phoenix. 

The only problem is a little lawsuit being filed against the city of Glendale because of the way he is planning on paying for it

Nonetheless, a huge issue with keeping the Coyotes in Phoenix was that people couldn't find an owner.  Well, an owner has been found, it's just a matter of getting the deal done.

Also, the city of Phoenix has the support of Gary Bettman in their effort to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix.  This is because Phoenix is a larger market and has better potential for television deals and other financial perks.

Plus, the Coyotes have managed to make the playoffs the past two seasons without any type of solid ownership.  If the Coyotes finally got a strong owner in place, the team would finally be able to relax, which would make for even better seasons, and possibly a deep playoff run.

Even Dave Tippett commented on how much more success his team can have if stable ownership managed to take over.

The Case for Winnipeg:  Bring Back the Jets.

The Winnipeg Jets joined the NHL in the 1979-1980 season from the WHA. 

The Jets played in the NHL for 17 seasons before being moved to Phoenix, and enjoyed a greater amount of success than the Coyotes have, making the playoffs 11 times.

One thing they managed to do that the Coyotes have yet to accomplish was advance past the first round.  Though neither franchise has managed a trip to the conference finals yet.

One thing that had a factor in the Jets moving south was game attendance.  The Jets, from 1979-1996, averaged about 12,893 people in attendance.  We also have to remember that their arena was archaic.

The Coyotes, however, have not fared much better.  Since the 2000-2001 season, Phoenix has averaged 14,055 people in attendance. 

A larger number, yes, but considering how much larger of a market Phoenix is, and how much larger of an arena the Coyotes play in, this number may actually be worse.

The current arena in Phoenix, Arena, seats 17,799 and rarely ever manages to sell out.

Plus, Winnipeg has already built a new arena that, while still smaller by comparison to many other NHL arenas, can fit 15,000 people for hockey games. 

I don't think that it would be too hard for a region that has been starved of hockey for the past 15 years to fill up that many seats.  The city has even started a season ticket drive to prove that they would be able to fill all of their seats should the team move back to Winnipeg.

Let's also take a look at the level of passion of the fan base.  When the Jets were being moved out of Winnipeg, the fans took to the streets in protest, and even tried to raise the money necessary to keep the Jets in Canada.

35,000 fans showed up to the Save the Jets rally that was held. 

When Phoenix held a similar Save the Coyotes rally, only 200 people showed up. 

To put that into a larger perspective, the population of Winnipeg is about 684,100 people.  Meaning that about five percent of the population of Winnipeg showed up to this rally.

The population of Phoenix 1,445,632.  Meaning that .01percent of the population of Phoenix came to support this cause. 

But you may say, "Wait, Phoenix actually plays in Glendale."  Fine.  Glendale's population is 226,721.  Meaning that .088 percent of the population of Glendale came out that day to support their team.  Still not quite convincing.

The most telling number of all is this.  In the 15 years that the Coyotes have spent in Phoenix, they have yet to make a profit as a team. 

One can definitely say that the uncertainty of the last two years made it nearly impossible for the team to expect that, but there were still 13 other seasons, with a lot of very good hockey players, where the team was in the red and not in the black.

All of this really points to just one logical conclusion.


The experiment in the desert cannot be viewed in any other way than as a failure. 

This isn't about the success of the team as far as wins and losses, in the end this comes down to business.  Dollars and cents. 

The bottom line is that the Coyotes don't have any dollars, and it makes absolutely no sense to leave a team that has never once turned a profit in the same location.  The market has spoken and it is time to move on.

I'm not saying that Phoenix has bad fans, they don't.

I'm not saying that the city of Phoenix doesn't deserve to have a hockey team, I'm not that arrogant. 

What I'm saying is that the city of Phoenix has shown, through lack of attendance and lack of purchasing other Coyotes materials, that they aren't interested in having a hockey team right now.

There are two other markets, while smaller than Phoenix, that are absolutely frothing at the mouth with the possibility of bringing the NHL to another part of Canada, and they deserve just as much of a shot to prove that they can support the team as the NHL gave Phoenix for the past 15 years.

I'm sorry, Phoenix. It just makes more sense for the NHL to move the Coyotes back to Canada. 

Next season, it is a very strong possibility that we will once again see the Winnipeg Jets taking off on another NHL season.