Hey, it’s been a while since we checked in with the Arizona Coyotes, whose then-owner Anthony LeBlanc in 2015 objected to not getting paid by the city to operate their own arena by saying he was talking to lots of other cities, then signed another lease extension in 2017, then signed another one this January. What’s the latest?
Arizona Coyotes officials have confirmed the team will stay in Glendale for another season as the team draws larger crowds to Gila River Arena than it has in years.
“We will absolutely play the 2020-2021 NHL season in Gila River Arena,” Coyotes CEO Ahron Cohen said in a statement on Friday.
Coyotes attendance was indeed up ever so slightly last year, and they’re currently only fourth-worst in the NHL, ahead of the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, and Ottawa Senators. The team’s new owner has said that staying n Glendale without a new arena would be “difficult,” and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said last summer that the current situation is “not viable long-term,” but at a certain point actions speak louder than words, and the fact of the matter is that we’re now going on five years since LeBlanc threatened to leave town if he didn’t get to keep his sweetheart arena lease, and the team is still there, with no serious relocation talks underway that anyone has publicly reported on.
I never want to suggest that pro sports teams’ move threats are entirely a bluff: They do move on occasion, though it’s way more common in the NFL where local cable market size isn’t an issue and there are a lot fewer tickets needing to be sold; and Phoenix has never really been a hockey hotbed, so there are arguably other markets the Coyotes could viably leave for. Still, it’s a good reminder that the number of teams that move is a tiny, tiny fraction of the number whose owners threaten to move, and in almost every case there’s a long, drawn-out negotiating process before the moving trucks are actually packed up. So as memorable an image as the Baltimore Colts packing up their Mayflower vans may be, usually playing hardball over a lease doesn’t result in losing a team “overnight,” so maybe we can all stop using that word?