Will the Arizona Coyotes still be in Arizona when the current rebuild comes to fruition? A question that was recently posed by fan favorite Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic.
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Given the recent history of the organization and the dreaded out clause that is looming, it’s a valid question to ask. It’s unpopular and fans are tired of hearing it, but it’s still valid.
The validity of the question is not what’s important though. What’s important, is that the question has already been answered.
Coyotes President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc took to Twitter to reach out to fans after the NHL Trade Deadline that saw the Coyotes officially enter rebuild mode.
This is something that LeBlanc has repeated countless times since he and his group (IceArizona) took over control of the team.
Enter Andrew Barroway. IceArizona sells majority control of the team to Barroway and the rumors and speculation start right back up.
When Barroway took over, it was reported that he was only interested in flipping the team to another city. Something that he has repeatedly denied.
On the Doug and Wolf show, Barroway was asked about his intentions and said,
"“This is my future, I want to build a long-term winner here and this is where I want to be and I’m as thrilled as can be to be here. This is it. It (the out clause) was not something that we asked for. It was part of the prior deal and I inherited that. But no, it’s not important and we’re here to stay.”"
Sure, there are those who will stir the pot, whether it be intentional or not, claiming uncertainty with the team. Take another fan favorite such as Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers for example and what he had to say to Bickley,
"“I still haven’t met (Barroway) yet, so that’s a little troubling. He had one window where he could’ve met with me for a couple hours, and that didn’t work with my schedule. But that’s it. And I wish that part could’ve been handled differently. But the feedback I’m getting from folk is, ‘What’s going on here? Why are they getting rid of all their talent?'”"
In one quote, he says he cant find time to meet with the man who basically holds the success of Glendale’s biggest attraction, Westgate, in his hands and reveals how little he actually knows about the operation of a sports team.
Mar 5, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; The Arizona Coyotes celebrate after the shootout against the Vancouver Canucks at Gila River Arena. The Coyotes won 3-2 in a shootout Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
During the 2012-13 NHL lockout, businesses at Westgate lost considerable amounts of money. In interviews with Cronkite News, a Westgate restaurant manager and a Glendale spokeswoman confirmed this.
According to the McFadden’s manager, Aaron Hernandez, the restaurant lost between $18,000 and $25,000 per cancelled game. The city itself lost about $60,000 per cancelled game according to Glendale spokeswoman Jennifer Stein.
So, with that type of money on the line, I’d say finding time to meet with Barroway and learn of his intentions with the team should be higher on the priorities list.
Could they all be lying straight to our faces? Sure. Is it likely? Probably not.
These are all businessmen in the public eye. Would they really damage their image by building fans up with hope only to pull the plug and go back on everything they said for five years when the time comes to face the out clause? I just don’t think so.
You can also look at the actions of the NHL and Commissioner Gary Bettman. The NHL wants the Coyotes in Arizona. If they didn’t, they would have been moved a long time ago. The Atlanta Thrashers are a good example of that.
Now, as for the rebuild, a rebuild of the on ice product would not change any of this. When it comes to fan support, yes, it’s no secret that Arizona has consistently ranked at the bottom of the league in terms of attendance, but LeBlanc says that ticket sales continue to increase. That increase, by the way, was with the bad team on the ice.
So, if fans would continue to support the bad team, why wouldn’t they support and embrace the rebuild? Sure, it means losing, but isn’t that what the team was already doing?
When a rebuild happens, yes, it means the team currently in a bad place, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney did a great job at this most recent trade deadline. The quality of talent that he secured should make for a quicker turnaround.
Sep 22, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Max Domi (16) looks on during the third period against the Los Angeles Kings at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Duclair, Max Domi, Brandon Perlini, Klas Dahlbeck, Philip Samuelsson and Christian Dvorak, just to name a few. If this season continues at its current pace, one of the top three picks in the next draft, Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel or Mitchell Marner (expected top three) would be joining that impressive list.
These are all exciting players to watch and they will draw crowds to Gila River Arena. Domi and Duclair already gave us a preview at the 2015 World Junior Championships of what to expect when they play together.
These players are not minor leaguers that are in need of too much more grooming. They are the future stars of the NHL, their debuts are right around the corner and there is nothing not exciting about that.
Coyotes fans have been through a lot, if they could stick through year after year of uncertainty regarding their future in Arizona, then a rebuild should be a walk in the park for these fans. It may not be ideal, but watching a rebuild is better than not watching any hockey at all.