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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Monday, February 9, 2009
Howling from Pain

The wife and I went to a Coyote games the other night and we had a good time; hockey is the best sport to see in-person.

When the Yotes arrived in town back in 1996, we already had been told that the Diamondbacks were going to come in a few years so we were on our way to being one of those rare 4-sport towns. I hate to tell you but based on what I just saw at the arena we are probably close to being a 3-sport town.

Ever since they arrived in the desert 13 years ago, the team has lost money. It's been rumored the current ownership group will lose close to $45 million this year alone and more than $200 million total since 2001.

Did I mention this is the third set of owners since the team set up shop here? The first was the group involved in moving/stealing the team from Winnipeg, that squad came Stanley Cup-contention ready. However the team had to play in the Suns' arena which wasn't configured for hockey and in which crucial revenue streams went to the Suns instead of the ice dogs. To top it Colangelo not only controlled the Suns, he also controlled the city-owned arena and refused to make the critical improvements to allow for an effective hockey-watching experience. So the team was sold to developer Steve Ellman who tried to use the prospect of a new arena as an anchor tenant for a new publically-supported real estate development. After playing footsies with Scottsdale for years and turning the Los Arcos shopping mall into a gaping hole in the ground, Ellman was able to cut just such a deal with Glendale.

I should have added that had Ellman not bought the team, there were strong rumors that Paul Allen would have bought it instead and moved it to Portland.

The Coyotes got their new Glendale arena built and opened... right before the NHL went through a year-long lockout. Soon thereafter, Ellman sold the team to the trucking magnate Jerry Moyes.

So let's go through this. That's 3 ownership groups in Phoenix in 13 years, 4 if you include the Winnipeg owners that sold the team right before it was moved. The team's fan base was located in the East Valley of the Phoenix area so when the team moved 19 miles further west to its new arena in Glendale, it core fan base was looking at 75 to 80 mile round trip drives to watch the games with the first part of that trip (30 to 40 miles) in rush hour traffic. Third, not only has the team lost money since 2001, it probably lost money every year since it was here.

Well apparently Moyes is done with the financial red link, not least because his trucking business has fallen on hard times. The NHL has stepped in to keep the team afloat and headlines in the hockey press alternate between investors refusing to take the plunge after looking at the Coyotes' books and "NHL Commissioner dismisses talk of Coyotes' demise." Personally I would love to look at the books if only to learn how a team could lose upwards of $45 million when they play in a league that has a salary cap of $54 million.

However more than the headlines and the past history, you can tell a team is nearing the end when....

1) The announced attendance was 15,229 with a capacity for hockey 17,799; I would say maybe half of those people showed up. Up shot was the lines at the bathroom were short and the ratio of areana staff to fans was extremely high. We were amazed by the skill of the arena cameramen because everytime they showed shots of the crowd up on the scoreboard you could hardly see an empty seat.

2) The only sections that came close to being filled were the two sections located below the concession stands that were part of "free food night."

3) You look at the schedule of upcoming games and wonder if you should buy tickets in advance for games toward the end of the season. Yeah it's that bad... given that there seems to be a massive penalty clause in respect to the City of Glendale if the team actually moves my guess is the team is going to be disbanded sometime in 2009.

The stench of death.

Given the horrid play of the special teams (gave up 4 power play and 1 short-handed goal), I would say the highlight of the evening was a tie between the play of the pee-wee hockey teams during the first intermission and the work of the girls who came out during the television timeouts to clean up the ice - I mean if the Yotes played with half of their efficiency they would be tops in the division.