I’m been out of commission the last couple of days with the flu — if you want an early indication that this year’s flu vaccine may not have been particularly well-targeted, I’m your data point — but it looks like I didn’t miss too much stadium and arena action. Except, that is, for a truly impressive non-threat threat from Arizona Coyotes management about new owners potentially moving the team.
Ever since it was revealed last year that Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway was looking to sell anywhere from 49% to 100% of his stake in the team, there has been speculation that new owners might want to relocate it to someplace where people actually want to buy hockey tickets. So new team president Ahron Cohen issued a New Year’s statement that, news outlets reported, declared “Arizona is our home” and reaffirmed the team’s desire to stay in the state.
Except the key section of Cohen’s statement said nothing of the sort:
“Recently, you may have read reports about a potential ownership transaction. As I have said for months, we will continue to explore investment opportunities to better assist our team in achieving our long-term goals and organizational vision. This process has at its core one key pre-condition: any investment in our team must be laser-focused on helping the Coyotes achieve a long-term sustainable arena solution here in Arizona,” Cohen wrote.
“Every potential investment opportunity we evaluate and every business deal we consider is predicated on making our franchise successful here in Arizona for decades to come. Arizona is our home. We love it here. And we love playing for you, the very best fans in the NHL.”
That is not, under any possible reading, we will only sell to new owners who will promise to stay in Arizona, but rather, it’d be a real shame if anyone was to set fire to those paratroopers, colonel.
Now, does this mean it’s any more likely that the Coyotes are going to move if they’re sold? No. Less likely? Also no. In fact, it’s exactly the same thing you would expect team execs to say regardless of what their plans are for the team — or if they have no idea what their plans are, but they just want to keep their options open. So this makes the team’s current ownership group look concerned about fans while also not hamstringing future owners in any way — other than not to turn down a free arena in the Phoenix area if one is offered — which is just rhetorical evil genius, man.
And as a reminder, in case anyone has forgotten: Yes, the Coyotes already play in a largely free arena in the Phoenix area, one they were reasonably happy with until a conflict-of-interest loophole allowed the city of Glendale to terminate the lease that paid the team $8 million a year to play there. I’m sure there’s a clever, pithy way to describe the interlocking ironies at work here, but I’m still getting over being sick, so I’ll have to leave that as an exercise for my readers.