Which NHL teams should relocate (Part 2)

In the first post the Florida Panthers were analyzed, and as stated the Arizona Coyotes are up next in the second instalment of three. If you haven't read the first article you can find it by clicking here

The Arizona (formally Phoenix) Coyotes moved to the desert from Winnipeg on July 1st, 1996 after the Winnipeg Jets were struggling financially, and the move has proved to be a mistake over the years. Here are the reasons (some are similar to the Panthers) of why the team is unsuccessful

1) Years of having terrible ownership 

As stated in the last article, it's the owners that invest and pay for the players, and not the team. Most recently in the last decade, the Coyotes have been for sale numerous times, a kind of instability that doesn't help the franchise win games on the ice. The team had owners that weren't willing to spend up to the salary cap, and instead the team featured some of the lowest payrolls in the league, next to the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders. Having the lowest payroll may have worked for the Oakland A's in Moneyball because of their advanced stats, but these type of stats are now just now being used by NHL teams and are just starting to be utilized. In the past they were non existent, meaning that if a team had a low payroll it wasn't because they had a special way of finding talent for low cost. 

In 2008-2009, former owner Jerry Moyes had put the team up for sale and had assistance from the league in finding a new owner. The NHL had a potential buyer lined up in Jerry Reinsdorf, the owner of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox, but before they could present Moyes with the offer, he declared bankruptcy for the team. It was uncovered that the NHL was paying the bills for the Coyotes, which is seen as a sort of favour from the League to one franchise. When bankruptcy hit, the NHL took 100% ownership of the Coyotes in order to keep the team alive. This was another major hit for the team, because the League was never going to fully invest in the Coyotes. Instead they opted to keep the payroll at the lowest possible value until a proper owner could be acquired

Many potential buyers approached the NHL to buy the franchise, but the league either rejected many offers or they simply just fell through. The deal was difficult to make because a deal with the League needed to be reached, as well as a lease agreement with the City of Glendale (where the Coyotes home arena is). The city wanted guaranteed money, because they were paying millions of dollars as well to keep the team afloat. Finally in the summer of 2013, new owners were found in Canadian businessmen George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc. Just recently, 51% of the Coyotes were sold again, and the investor was Andrew Barroway who bought the majority of the team for $155 million. No team can produce quality product if the owners keep changing, and the lack of stable ownership proves to have a negative effect on the team.

Here are some funny thoughts from Scott Feschuk. He's a writer for SportsNet and this particular article features his five thoughts on the week of hockey. If you want to read his full article click here, but for the purposes of this article i'm only posting his thoughts related to the Coyotes.

2) Cheap Tickets and huge losses

In Arizona $15 will buy you a ticket to the Coyotes game. In Toronto, $15 is considered cheap to pay for parking to go to a Leafs game. The two teams do play in completely different markets, but one can see the problem already with such cheap tickets. The arena revenue is not going to make the team any money, which is what they so desperately need. In the past few years of unstable ownership, the Coyotes have recorded losses north of $40 million a season. That deficit is $9 million more than the Panthers record, showing that hockey just doesn't belong in the desert. The City of Glendale was guaranteed $6.8 million from the arena ticket sales and parking revenue; however after last season the team could only afford to give the city $4.4 million, saying that the remaining amount will be made up elsewhere. The Coyotes don't even have enough money to honour their agreements.

3) Where the heck is their arena located?

The Coyotes used to play out of a downtown arena in Phoenix, something that I stated in the last article that helps the team attract more fans and gain more revenue. When the lease agreement couldn't be renewed with the arena, they moved to the Suburb of Glendale Arizona in 2003, and called Gila River Arena their new home. Lets break this down, the team already is in a terrible market, and they decided to move to a suburb away from the downtown core of Phoenix because of their lease agreement? Hypothetically that move might work in Cities like Montreal or Toronto if the Leafs of Habs ever needed a new rink, but we are talking about the middle of the desert, where hockey was never even thought of before the Coyotes arrived. 

Downtown Phoenix lies under the  "Phoenix" label on the map, and the red tag is where the Coyotes arena is situated. Just like the Panthers, they are simply located too far away from the major population, because it is a 25-30 minute drive without traffic from the downtown core to Glendale. 

Possible Relocation Site

Most articles or sports writers are stating that Seattle would be the best choice for the Coyotes to relocate to, and in this article i'm going to say why they SHOULDN'T move there, and where the other best option is. 

Why Seattle is a bad idea:

1) No arena

Last time I checked a hockey team needs a rink, and Seattle doesn't even have plans to build one. The WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds call ShoWare Centre their home rink, but neither that arena or the Thunderbirds old rink, KeyArena, are suitable by NHL standards. If there was an arena being planned or one being built already (like in Quebec City), the case would be stronger for Seattle.

2) Sports market is saturated

The metro population of Seattle, which is Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, is estimated by the United States Census Bureau to be 3.5 million. Thats a great population base to host an NHL team, but there are just too many other sports in the area. The cities favourite team, the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, gain just under 70,000 fans a game. Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders have 40,000 fans a game. The MLB's Mariners also call the city home, and it is well known that Seattle so desperately want their NBA franchise back. A NHL team would fair well for the first couple of seasons, but how long could it be sustainable with all these other sports in town? The goal of the city is to first bring an NBA team back , so an NHL team is secondary and would only be wanted if a NBA franchise was granted to the city as well. City council has thought of building an arena, but they wish to have two tenants in it, meaning the NBA franchise is a must for the city. Seattle could work to sustain a NHL team, but this is just my opinion.

Seattle Seahawks Sellout Crowd of 70,000, obtained from:

Where should the Coyotes relocate to? The answer lies in a city close to Seattle. Welcome to Portland.

Why the team would be successful in Portland, Oregon:

1) Large metro population

According to the World Population Review, the metro Portland area has a population of 2.36 million. Portland is also a city with a fast growing population, going from 582,000 in 2010 to 600,000 present day. The metro population is perfect by NHL standards, and they have the population to provide a great fan base.

Portland City Scape

2) Sports market isn't saturated

Unlike Seattle, Portland lacks a MLB and NFL franchise, and only have the Trail Blazers of the NBA and Timbers of the MLS. The market for another team is feasible as there aren't too many teams tapping into the population.

3) Possible home to play in

The Portland Trail Blazers and the WHL's Portland Winterhawks both play out of the Moda Centre. The arena has a capacity of 19,980, bigger than the arenas of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Minnesota Wild, Philadelphia Flyers and many more. The arena is ideal by NHL standards, and it has all the amenities to house an NHL team. The only problem is that the owner of the Trail Blazers already has voiced his opinion that he doesn't want another tenant in the rink; however this could be an easy obstacle to overcome as settlements can easily be achieved. 

Sellout crowd at a Portland Winterhawk's game at the Moda Centre

4) Rivalry!

The case for Seattle is that the new team would have a geographic rivalry with Vancouver. If the team was in Portland, the Vancouver rivalry is still a possibility, but a better and more exciting one could possibly be created. The San Jose Sharks are located just south of Portland, and the established Sharks-Kings beef seems to be one of the best in the league. The Sharks have a big, strong, hard hitting team which makes their games more exciting to watch. When they play the Kings, it's an all out war on the ice, as evident in last years playoffs when both teams combined for over 90 hits in one game. With Portland getting a team, a similar rivalry could be born, adding more excitement to the fan bases who cheer for these teams.

Scrum between the Sharks and Kings in the 2013 Playoffs, something that happens often between the two teams. Picture obtained from:

5) Division alignments wouldn't have to change

The Arizona Coyotes play in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference, and a move to Portland would mean the team would stay in the same division, making it easier for the league as they wouldn't have to re design the divisions. 

NHL divisions, per

The red shade is the Pacific Division, and Portland would be located north of San Jose, making the move ideal for the divisional alignments. 

Thanks for reading, part 3 is coming soon. Feel free to comment