Sunday, May 10, 2009

Phoenix - It Sure FEELS Personal

I am dismayed and appalled to find my team once more embroiled in controversy, financial and otherwise. Whatever happened to that quiet little team plugging away at gettin better in the desert?

Money happened... or is that lack of? Since the team got here back in 1996 it seems like we have been unable to find ourselves some firm footing.We've been the bastard children of the NHL since we arrived in Phoenix. It seems like pretty much the entire world has been holding its collective breath waiting for our demise. And now with the impending bankruptcy filing, everyone can't wait to express their joy and say 'I told you so, Phoenix sucks'.

It hurts. As a pretty die hard fan I can't seem to accept that this is business, not personal. It feels personal. The jabs about a lame fanbase. The snide asides about my chosen city. The overt disdain about the franchise's operation, players, history and overall game. There are a LOT of petty people in the world. I am shocked by the amount of vitriol being shovelled our way though. Hockey fans are some of the kindest and most loyal folks on the planet usually. But apparently not with regards to the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Yotes have suffered through some of the worst ownership, one of the worst arenas, one of the worst scouting teams, some of the worst personnel decisions and probably some of the most apathetic media in all the NHL. Yet we still persevere.

We are growing the sport at the local level like wildfire (a model that has made Dallas a very successful group). We are giving youth a prominent chance (a model that has paid off handsomely for Chicago). We have built an arena that is as state of the art as any in the league. We have award winning marketing. We have upgraded our prospect pool to the point of envy. We have maintained an average attendance of more than 14,000 + per game (although I admit that we do need to raise our prices a bit so that these numbers do more for our bottom line contribution to the league). What more can we do to get a little respect?

Win? You say that like we haven't been building towards that very thing over the last 4 years. It would be a damn shame if all that hard work culminates into success somewhere else although.I'm pretty sure those same mean spirited people would point to the success and say 'see! told you it was all Phoenix's fault'. This makes me sad to contemplate.

I just want to say thank you to those kind souls (many of them here at HLOG) who have sent caring and supportive thoughts our way. Many of you have even signed up to help us save the team. Special thanks to the Predator fans who have gone through this agony most recently and are amongst my brightest moments in this ugly battle.

I should do more writing on this whole battle for HLOG but right now most of my wordsmithing is going towards trying to get information out to my fanbase and rallying the troops to fight this move to the hopefully, triumphant end. I will try to get an entry or two up in the coming weeks as the bankruptcy filing hearing and Save the Coyotes rally get closer to fruition.

I hope you will all keep us in your hearts as we battle, we can use all the friends we can get.

PS if anyone has been on the planning end of a rally, I could suuure use advice/suggestions etc.


Dare said...

I guess I feel for the fans in Phoenix, but at the same time, I think back to how Winnepeggers felt when they had their team snapped up to be moved to AZ...

Z4Dfense said...

I feel for the Winnipeg fans too, another reason it shouldn't happen again. The fans left behind are the only real losers.

I think it is time for the NHL to revisit an expansion. The Coyotes need to stay and let the fans from Southern Ontario (preferrably Winnipeg could resurrect the Jets) but Hamilton or wherever, is also good too.... a new team to build a new history and heal both sets of fans.

Dave Shorr said...

Listen, I really sympathize, I really do, but I'm a Winnipegger and there's something you really need to understand. Phoenix is not, and never will be a hockey town. Now, that's not to say that you're not a hockey fan, but those like you are far and few between.

When the Jets left, it wasn't for a lack of love for the team. Winnipeg is a blue-collar city, and the money and corporate support (not to mention a NHL caliber arena) were not in place. So the team was sold to Richard Burke and went south to Phoenix. Now, as the push to get a new arena went on and to assemble an ownership group to raise the capital to keep the team in Winnipeg, children across the city (my little brother included) smashed their piggy banks and rallies with upwards of 20 000 people clogged the streets.

Winnipeg is a place where families huddle in community centres to watch peewee hockey being played in -30 degree and guys like Anders Hedberg, Dale Hawerchuk and Teemu Selanne are still revered as gods. To have the team plucked from this heartland of hockey to the desert, where people can afford to attend the games but just choose not to is infuriating. Tickets are given away free with the purchase of a bottle of vodka, and attendance usually hovers around six thousand, (these are people through the gate, not announced attendance) which is less than minor hockey and baseball draws in Winnipeg.

I appreciate that it sucks that your hockey team may be leaving (I pray to God that the coyotes do leave Phoenix), but Southern Ontario could easily support another NHL team, and the average rank-and-file resident of Phoenix couldn't give a damn. Your beef is with the people of your city who don't go to the games, not Hamilton on Jim Basillie.

Just out of curiosity, how often have you actually played hockey my dear?

AZ297 said...

Um- I played 3 times this week, with another 2 hours of skate practice... would have played more, but I have a job and all...and there are MANY people that play here- and not just guys..
And actually, as a female that just started playing last year, I am amazed at how much hockey I can play here-- there are so many options any day of the week, at so many skill levels...
What makes the folks north of the border so stinking stingy with the sport anyway?

hipcheck said...

Wait, so now you have to play hoceky to be a real fan????

I have never played hockey (unless you count floor/street hockey) a day in my life and I am a huge hockey fan. I am not from Phoenix either. I am from Wisconsin, where plenty of hockey is played and watched. I grew up watching hockey.

How many people that are fans of baseball/basketball/soccer/football/nascar have ever really played those games? They might have dabbled with them in high school but most don't continue to play. You don't have to play a game to be a fan. Wow, you are just showing your ignorance there buddy.

Z4Dfense said...

So Dave... I played for 5 seasons...didnt start til I was almost 40 years old. But I coached for nearly 12 years mini mites - thru highschool aged kids.

I know the history of my team but thanks for the mini lesson. And contrary to what anyone posts about our attendance, I am physically THERE every single game and there are more than 6k people in the seats.

I truly "GET" theat Winnipeg got royally screwed... phenomenally, thoroughly screwed. I hurt for them. I want them to get another team. I don't understand why they can't get another team since all the pieces including a new stadium are in place. I friggin join every petition and add my 2 cents to articles advocating that they get a NEW team.

But no way or form should they get my team simply because the Coyotes were the original Jets.Simply because Canada is the 'home' of hockey.

Why does even the mention of the Coyotes bring out this type of mentality. That we in Phoenix stole something from Canada? We didn't steal them. The NHL made a decision and we benefitted from it and Winnipeg lost a wonderful team. (that team is gone now...only Shane Doan remains) if you folks in Winnipeg love the Coyotes so much why do you boo the team when they play there every year? (just wanted to always ask that)

This is not us VS you. If I can be diplomatic and supportive of both sides getting a team in the midst of an emotional shit storm I really don't see why some Canadians can't put aside something that happened in 1996 long enough to empathise with people who are enduring the very same pain they went through.

Apparently human nature does suck and misery very much welcomes the opportunity to inflict misery onto others.

Dave Shorr said...

Listen, perhaps I was over-reaching a bit with the playing hockey comment, truth be told I was trying to antagonize you and I apologize.

But as far as the stingy comment, that's where you can't see the forest for the trees. I'm not "stingy" if people are actually showing up for the games, as they do in Dallas, Anaheim and San Jose. If people show up for the games, then more power to them. But in markets like Nashville, Atlanta and the worst of them being Phoenix where no one goes, the fact that Gary Bettman bends over backward to keep the teams there is infuriating to people across Canada.

I don't think the NHL should come back to Winnipeg, I still don't think we could support it. But in the Toronto area, it's not even possible to buy tickets at the box office, and scalped tickets go for four times the face value. That's why we're so "stingy", because you (and by that I mean the city, not you personally) have a hockey team and can't be bothered to show up to the games.

If you want to get an idea about how "stingy" we are about the game, take a look clips from the Red Mile in Calgary in 2004, Whyte Avenue in Edmonton in 2006 or the riots in Montreal last year after the Habs made it past the first round.

To have Canadian hockey sold off piece by piece to people who don't give a rat's ass pisses off a lot of people up here. And I have never met an American who can even begin to grasp that fact.

And Z4Defense: I've seen the people in the crowd, there's no one there. The team loses 20 million dollars a season. My beef isn't that the Jets left. It wasn't feasible. My beef is the fact that, the Coyotes are doing way worse than the Jets ever did and Bettman all of a sudden is holding on to the team for dear life, saying it's all about the fans when he couldn't get the team out of here soon enough. Like I've said before, if Phoenix was a good hockey market, I'd have no problem. But it isn't, like I just said, the team loses 20 million dollars a year. That's a staggering amount. The team has been there since 1996 and has yet to turn a profit. People in Phoenix don't care about hockey, it's time for the game to move somewhere where people do.

Dare said...

I think expansion is one of the worst things the NHL could do. There are already too many teams. Attendance was already bad in many markets last year, and it's looking like it will be even worse next year.

Of course, if there were to be a team in S.Ont. the league would want to place it there through expansion - that's upwards of $400mil being shared between the owners in expansion fees versus nada if a team gets moved into the area.

The unfortunate reality of professional sports is that, despite the affinity fans have for the teams, and how they come to be viewed as "their" teams, they're not. They are corporate entities, and largely, playthings for billionaire owners. If something doesn't make money, it's not going to be around for long (kind of like the Linens and Things by my house).

At the end of the day, business wins, you know?

hipcheck said...

The people that comment about our attendance have probably never actually been to a game Z. They are basing that off what they see on tv, which is the lower rows of the arena. Trust me, if you actually go to a game, the upperbowl is almost always full and the upper rows of the lower level get pretty full. You can't always trust what you see on tv. I have seen red wings games this season where it looks empty in the arena, but I can only see the first 8 or so rows of seats. That is not a good indication of the overall attendance because those are the most expensice (and usually corporate seats) so of course they aren't full. I just love when people make judgements without having all the information or having actually seen it for themselves.

Dave Shorr said...

Dare pretty much put it best. It's all business. The fact that the team loses on average 20 million a year suggests that no one is going. (Not to mention the pictures we see from the game on a regular basis; you say no one buys lower bowl tickets like it's a good thing)

You seem like a legitimate hockey fan, and based on previous blog posts I can certainly see you know the game very well. But Phoenix is not a hockey market and Hamilton is. That's business.

Owen said...

I was a fellow Winnipeger, born and raised. I live in Calgary now but understand the league, hockey and both locations as well or better then anyone. I feel for the fans in Phoenix. I was there when they snapped up the team and took it to Arizona. It was heart breaking. People in Winnipeg lost there sense of "Winnipeg is a big city". The truth of the matter is that Winnipeg could not afford to field a team. There was no salary cap and the price to ice a good team was to expensive. Times are maybe a little different now but Winnipeg would still struggle to have the corporate money and media revenue you need to meet a 56 million dollar cap. on top of operating costs. The MTS centre would have to be expanded and the city would not put up the costs. Although there are tons of fans in Winnipeg paying $40 for a moose game (for the best seat in the house) compared to paying $210 for a Flames NHL game seat are totally different. If people in Winnipeg have these Grand idea's "oh I will take little Johnny to a game" they need to be prepared to spend $500 for a couple seats and popcorn. In Canada season tickets are $10,000 for a pair and corporate boxes are well over $100,000.00 for the year. Other then MTS and maybe Investors Group who else is going to buy boxes. Revenue you need to survive.
Winnipegers have to stop being angry at the world for losing their Jets. They need to support ther teams and hope for expansion and maybe finding oil in Northern Manitoba. In a city of 650,000 people, which goes up and down by 15,000 people over the last 25 years, where is the money going to come from. They can't even fix the potholes and erase the graffiti off the bridge at the forks. Concentrate on building a better community before you worry about spending millions on a NHL franchise.
Lastly Dave I hate to break it to you but Winnipeg is far from "hockey town" as well. The amount of Kids playing minor hockey is bigger in every part of Canada except for Regina and Saskatoon then it is in Winnipeg. There are more minor league players in lower mainland by 4 times and they can't play outdoors.
Go Flames Go.

Kerri said...

I guess I feel for the fans in Phoenix, but at the same time, I think back to how Winnepeggers felt when they had their team snapped up to be moved to AZ...If you think back to how Winnipeggers felt when they had their team snapped up, how could you possible wish the same thing on any fanbase? This isn't karma, the people in Phoenix didn't steal the Jets away, it was some corporate decision that led to a lot of pain in Canada. And now we're watching what could be a lot of pain in Arizona. If you saw it happen in Winnipeg, if you saw it happen in Hartford, if you saw it happen in Quebec, I don't know how you are not 100% behind those in Phoenix working to keep their team stay.

I hate the "make it seven" campaign. Hate it. I don't care if there is six or seven or twenty teams in Canada, and I hope Canada gets as many markets as they can uphold, but I hate this nationalistic "Americans no nothing and can't enjoy OUR sport of hockey" attitude that I feel Ballsile is spreading. "Make It Seven" is not about the people in Hamilton or Toronto or Winnipeg who want a major league hockey team, it is about "a seventh hockey team where hockey should be played." It's making the possible relocation of team, which is always a terrible, terrible thing into this national movement against American hockey; American hockey which has worked out in several markets, mind you, and could possibly work in a market like Phoenix if they ever put a quality team out on the ice. I have a big problem with this nationalistic divide that Balsille is purposely making to get scorned Canadian ex-NHL markets behind his plan to relocate whatever expansion team can't keep up with a dismal economy or poor management decisions that leds to poor on-ice production.

Gray said...

I saw this late, but I just wanted to chime in and let you know that there are more than a few Sharks fans out there who support the 'Yotes staying in AZ. We can't attend the rallies, but we'll be pulling for you all here in CA.

From one so-called "non hockey town" to another, I wish you and your team and the best and a speedy resolution.