Look, I have no dog in this fight; I’m not Canadian, and I’m not a Coyotes fan.
But after seeing what is likely to be the Yotes’ last season in Phoenix, I can’t help but wonder if moving them back to Winnipeg (as everyone expects will happen) is really all that wise of a move. For all the shit talk targeted at the ability of the Phoenix fans to support an NHL team, Winnipeg didn’t do much better when they had the chance… They did worse:
Granted, there are a thousand variables that go into all of this. Winnipeg Arena was no where near the caliber of a modern NHL arena. I have no clue what the Manitoban economy of ’79-’96 looked like (could it have been much worse than modern-day Phoenix’s?). Dwayne “The Rock“ Johnson had not yet starred in Tooth Fairy, thus a surge of interest in the sport of hockey had not yet swept the continent.
But, all that important-stuff-that-could-easily-disprove-any-point-I-have aside, clearly Phoenix one-upped Winnipeg as far as showing up to support their team.
Truth be told, if they move back to Winnipeg next season, their building will likely be sold out for years. They’ll have a bigger and better arena, every one’s hunger and nostalgia for the return of the Jets will create a ticket-selling mania, the city has grown since 1996, and I’m assuming (but too lazy to verify) that the arena will be located in an area easier for the rest of Manitoba to get to. But what happens in, say, 10 years when (presumably) the US economy has recovered from the devastation of the Bush administration; when the US dollar once again trumps the Canadian dollar; when the novelty of having their team “back” wears off; once the popularity of hockey in the US has continued (hopefully) to soar upwards?
Let’s say that perfect storm happens, and Winnipeg has slipped back into it’s old ways, attendance has gone back to lackluster, and history repeats itself for a third time for this team. What then? Do we play ping pong with them and send them back to Phoenix for another decade or two until this perfect storm starts all over again and then send them back to Winnipeg? Or do we find the next non-traditional market in the US, or another starving Canadian market, or where ever the fuck else to ship them to?
I don’t have the answers, but it seems like things could be thought out a little more thoroughly. And shit, maybe they have been and all my points are moot, but (like I said), at least I got to make a dopey graph.
Ultimately, I really just wish Phoenix had started out with a competent owner that actually cared for the sport, as I think hockey could have and can work in Phoenix if managed the right way. The fans exist, and more could be cultivated. They even have an interesting history of hockey in Arizona (Phoenix Roadrunners, Arizona Icecats). I can’t imagine how this feels for them. And I hope I never have to find out how it feels to lose a team.
It’s unfortunate (and ironic) that so many Winnipeg supporters resort to vitriol and attacks on the fanbase of Phoenix. As Pension Plan Puppets tweeted last night after the Yotes’ playoff elimination and possible last game in Phoenix…
Feel free to come yell at me on our forums, Manitobans.