NHL's Arizona mess is failure of ownership not fans

Arizona Coyotes fans are facing the threat of relocation after voters rejected plans for a new arena but despite claims about a lack of true hockey culture in the region, the real problem is mismanagement on the part of the franchise's owners.

Video Transcript

JULIAN MCKENZIE: We talk about the Arizona Coyotes. We've seen what their admin's been doing on Twitter. Their arena plans are dead.

I don't know how I feel about all this relocation talk and people being like, yeah, just put them in Houston. I mean, it makes sense. But like, you know, I've lost, I've lost a team I love before and I don't think it's fun. It's not enjoyable. And you know, I'm not saying this to say like I agree with Gary Bettman, but like I sort of get why they were trying to make it work, even though they went at it in some really elaborate and foolish ways. But I hope they fix that. I actually hope they fix it. I actually hope for the sake of Arizona Coyotes fans-- I'm sure they exist. They exist. I hope it works.

OMAR: Yeah. Of course, [INAUDIBLE] some of the Arizona Coyotes fans who exist are like playing the league right now. Like Auston Matthews, Matthew Knies, that they grew up Coyotes fans, right. And so like for the fan base, it's unfortunate. However, comma, there's like only so much do, right. Again, like after next year, they, we don't know, they don't know, Gary Bettman doesn't know where they're going to be playing. It's either a college arena or nowhere.

I'm going to repeat that. Either it's a college arena or it's nowhere. And you're talking about a National Hockey League franchise organization. It's just, I don't know, like I-- the joke has been that like Gary Bettman has done everything he can to try to like save the Coyotes and it's still, and we're still here. Yet he has done everything possible to try to save them and this is where we are.

So at some point, when are you Austin Powers looking at the person who has a missile in their chest saying, why won't you die? Anyone see that movie? "Austin Powers, The Spy Who Shagged Me?"


JULIAN MCKENZIE: I was at a bar, I think they were playing that movie.

OMAR: Right? So--

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: --funny movies.


SAM CHANG: I have a-- I'm probably unpopular opinion on this.


SAM CHANG: I mean, I don't actually-- people are going to get mad about this. I don't have an issue with them playing in a college arena. I don't. I frankly don't. Like you've had arenas. You've had pro sports arenas with like 1,000 person crowds. Who cares? Those markets have succeeded. Like what is-- this is a franchise that has been tanked by poor ownership repeatedly.

I think people who are laughing at the Coyotes, people who are saying, just move them-- I think that people have to remember there's a difference between the fans and the ownership. And I think for most franchises, they don't really have a good relationship with ownership. Like off the top of my head, I can think of very few franchises where the fans think ownership is doing a good job, outside of a handful.

And I think for people to say like this is a city that doesn't deserve to have a team, this is a fan base that doesn't deserve to have a team, I think is, I think it misses the mark. It's not about the fans. Like we've talked about this before. This is a fan base that against all odds has continued to support this team. This is a fan base that in most cases, people wouldn't have continued to support this team. And they do. And hockey is like, I think Arizona is the fastest growing youth hockey market in America. If it isn't this year, it certainly was in the past few years.

Auston Matthews is a product of that system. Like I don't think you can look at the Coyotes and say this has been a failure to grow hockey here. It's just a failure of ownership and management, failure of stewardship. And I think that, I don't know, there's something about the way people are just saying, it's time for it to go, that is really distasteful to me. Like you've had markets like Winnipeg lose a team to Phoenix. Like it doesn't say anything about the fan base or the market. It's always about ownership and money. And that's not something that people in the market can really control.

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: And with this team, and people who say this don't know their own history, because I'm old enough to remember when we almost lost the Oilers to Houston. I remember, we almost lost the Flames, the Senators. Canadian teams have almost moved a lot. And in the '90s, we almost lost five Canadian teams in the '90s, early 2000s.


JULIAN MCKENZIE: Pittsburgh would have been gone.

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: But I remember, I remember when the Coyotes first moved to Arizona, yes, it was America West Arena, but they were selling out playoff games against Anaheim, against St. Lou. Go back and watch the 2000 playoff series against St Louis. That was a sellout crowd in downtown Phoenix. Go attendance numbers. We can pull up attendance numbers from '97 to about 2002, where the Coyotes outdrew the-- they outdrew Ottawa. They outdrew the Islanders. They outdrew Anaheim. They outdrew team, when they played in downtown Phoenix, who have been in the league for decades.

So don't tell me there's no fans here, when historically, when the team is playing in a good arena, they show up.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: If the Coyotes know what's good for them, just work out a deal with the Phoenix Suns owner. I know it's going to be kind of ridiculous for them to go back into that downtown arena, which they were before, which kind of lets all of this. But at this point, they might as well just do it.

The only thing, I guess, you kind of have to worry about is whatever alterations you're going to have to do in that arena to make it a hockey playing venue. And I understand that Matt Ishbia has already put in money in that arena to begin with. How do you get more money in that? But I think that's the best option for you right now, or else, hello, Salt Lake City.