COYOTES TO STAY IN ARIZONA – NOW IT’S UP TO THE FANS

04Jul13

By now you are fully aware that I am a huge hockey fan.  I’ve gone on and on about the merits of the sport and the athletes that make a living playing the game.  So naturally, being a longtime resident of the Valley of the Sun, I have been a fan of the Phoenix Coyotes ever since they played in Phoenix.

In case you don’t know, they have been playing down the street, in Glendale, ever since the new arena, now known as Jobing.com Arena, opened its doors in 2003.

If you know anything about the plight of the local hockey team, you will fully understand how frustrating it has been for me and my fellow hockey fans in Arizona for the past four years, give or take a few months.

Now I could spend the next couple of paragraphs explaining the financial aspects of the situation, or start throwing stones in various directions.  With as many people to blame for the current condition of the franchise, I’d be sure to hit at least one guilty party.

But I’m not going down that road.  At least not today!

Believe me, I‘ve had many conversation over the past few years, so that most people that know me already know my opinions on that topic.

Today, we’re going to take a look at this thing in a different way.  Since we have seen several groups of investors come and go over recent years, and we have seen the hopes of hockey fans come and go along with them, it had become very apparent that we were quickly approaching our final chance to keep the team in Arizona.

The NHL has been doing the majority of the managing over the past four years.  I have to believe they did this because they wanted to see the franchise be successful its present location, rather than allowing it to be shipped to another location.

Although I am grateful for their efforts to keep the team here, it has made it nearly impossible to make any progress in the franchise’s quest to become a serious contender.  They haven’t had the luxury of spending big money on star players like other organizations have been able to do.

However, for some reason, they found themselves in the Western Conference finals in the spring of 2012, losing to the eventual champions.  Why?  Because they were able to secure a top-level head coach, and then allowed him to build a top-level coaching team.

They managed to convince some very good players on the downside of their careers to come to town and give it a shot.  They took a gamble and struck gold with a goalie that had been given up for dead, only to find he was one of the best around.

They managed to convince their team captain to stick with the organization that drafted him back in 1995, even when he had offers for huge amounts of money elsewhere.

In recent months, when it still wasn’t clear that the team would actually be playing here next season, they managed to convince several key people to re-sign and re-commit.  This group included the GM, the Head Coach, the team captain and the goalie, all of which could have bailed for more money and security in another city.

The team, and its core members, has clearly done its part in making this a successful franchise for the valley for many years to come.

Glendale’s city council has been in a very tough spot ever since they were elected last November.  Their predecessors did an absolutely abysmal job, setting up stupid deals that went south, and leaving the city in a financial nightmare for the current regime to deal with.

I don’t envy them their jobs, whether I agree with them individually or not.  They were in a no-win situation.  When the league gave them the latest ultimatum of making the deal to keep the team by 7/3/13 or saying goodbye to them, they were destined to have enemies, regardless of the outcome.

Again, I am not going to go into the financial details of the deal(s) that was put together over the past week, but by the end of the day (actually night) of 7/2/13, a deal had been struck with the potential new owners that would keep the team here for many years to come…..well maybe!

Officially, the deal has not been blessed by the league yet, but given their efforts over the past four years to keep the team here, I’m guessing that will be a mere formality.

Oh yeah, and there’s that one minor detail in the purchase agreement.  The section that states that if the team is not making money in five years, the new ownership has the right to pack their things (including the team) and leave.

This is where the fans come in.  The league has done their part to keep the team here.  The team has done their part to keep the team here.  The City of Glendale has done their part to keep the team here.  The potential new owners have done their part to keep the team here.

Now it’s the fans turn to do their part to keep the team here.

What can the fans do?  It’s simple, really.  Go to see the games!!

Last season, the Coyotes had the second lowest average attendance for their home games.  The only team with fewer fans at their games was the New York Islanders.  I repeat – the Islanders!!!

Although Jobing.com Arena has a capacity seating for hockey games of 17,125, Coyotes fans were only putting 13,923 hind quarters in the seats.  For you math gurus out there, that means that, on average, there were 3,202 empty seats at each game in the 2012-2013 shortened season.

Am I suggesting that we all go out and buy season tickets?  No, of course not.  I think we can take a more realistic approach and still meet our goals of keeping the franchise and the city of Glendale financially viable.  And if we achieve that, the team will stick around a heck of a lot longer than five years.

So what exactly am I suggesting?  Glad you asked.  It’s simple.  If every hockey fan in the Valley of the Sun would simply agree to go to two more games during the upcoming season, the problem would be solved.

I know, it’s a lot easier to watch the game on TV, or DVR it and watch it later.  Believe me, I know.  That’s how I keep up with my team.  Making a commitment to a full season of home games is not something that I am in a position to do, nor are most fans.

However, by making a commitment to take my family to two more games than normal, I took a small step that will result in a major feat.

Still not convinced?  Okay, how many people live in the Valley of the Sun?  By this, I’m talking about all of the cities that surround Phoenix.

According to the Phoenix Business Journal’s March 14, 2013 edition, there are 4.3 million people in this area.  There is a good chance that at least half of them are sports fans of some sort.  That’s 2.15 million sports fans.

Let’s be very conservative and say that at least ten percent of the sports fans are hockey fans.  (I know, the number is actually much higher, but just go with it for now!)  That’s 215,000 hockey fans.

If only fifteen percent of those hockey fans make the same commitment that I just made, that would be 32,250 hockey fans making that commitment.

Now remember what the commitment was.  I would take my family to two more games.  Let’s be honest, when a hockey fan takes their family to a game, he is more than likely taking at least one person that is not a sports fan, let alone a hockey fan.

So let’s do the math.  If each of the fifteen percent of valley hockey fans brings a non-hockey fan to two more games this season, that will total 129,000 more seats sold for the season.

If there are currently 3,202 empty seats for the 41 home games, that would mean that there are 131,282 available seats for these extra 129,000 ticket purchases to be made, which means that the average attendance now becomes a near sellout for every game.

Problem solved!

Everyone that wants the team to stay in the valley for many years to come has a role to play in the solution.  All of the financial team members have done their part.  Now it’s time for the fans to do their part.

Only two more games a season, and you can enjoy having a top-notch local team for many years to come!

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