Monday, June 15, 2009

It's Still the Desert for the Yotes!

Once again, my best source is Twitter. As I was just aimlessly reading the feed, the news of the Judge's decision to block Jim Balsilie's time line to move the Phoenix Coyotes was released.

I can't be sure where I read the news first, but it seems that @PredsOnTheGlass may have been the first to announce it on their Blogtalk radio show.

Feeling the way I do, I was very happy to hear of this win for the NHL and their franchise constitution. Of course, not everyone was going to be happy with this decision and discussions began. While I was attempting to yap back in only 140 characters at a time, I began to think of someone who must be jumping for joy.

Weeks ago, I heard this female hockey fan on Gary Bettman's NHL Hour XM radio show. She called the Commissioner regarding the Coyote's franchise. She is the president of their Booster Club. Sadly, she was cut off before she could plug the rally they were about to have in support of keeping the Coyotes in AZ. But she managed to get my attention as well as that of the Commissioner.

When I read the news tonight, she was the first person I thought of. So I emailed Heather and this is what she had to say:
The relief I feel hearing that the Coyotes are staying in Phoenix is almost immeasurable! I have been so worried for so long!!! But now it is time for us to get to work! We've got to start selling tickets and getting sponsors. After that, we need the team to win, and everything will work out. We can show the world that there really are a lot of hockey fans here in Phoenix. Stay Coyotes stay!!! :) HOWL!
As the President of the Booster Club, Heather knows the problems facing this franchise. I had asked her how their community support was doing, even though the club was faltering.
The Coyotes are really great with the community. They get the players out in public as much as they possibly can, because we all know that is one of the things that helps sell our sport. The players are so nice and approachable. When people see Shane Doan with their kids, it makes them all fall in love with him. The Coyotes know that, and use it to their advantage whenever they can.

They have all kinds of hockey clinics to help kids learn to play hockey. They have development programs too. I don’t have kids so I’m not sure what is involved in all of that, but I know that they do their best to help grow the sport in the valley. They are doing a good job of that too. There are so many kids playing hockey here! It is amazing to see how many are playing, and playing well.

They also have a charity arm - Coyotes Charities. They have donated over $1.7 million to charities in the Arizona area that are focused on supporting children’s issues.
So, while the club is losing money, it is still attempting to be a viable community partner. However, just as in so many other locations, the media is not as helpful as they should be.
The media is definitely one of the reasons we don’t have the fan support we should. On the sports news here they cover the heck out of the DBacks, the Suns and even the Cardinals, who until last year had been nothing but bad. They talk about golf because so many people play it here.

Last on their list is hockey, because they think that people don’t care. The thing is, if they covered it, maybe more people would be interested! Right now we just get the fights and any bad news.

Hopefully we can keep the sports media honest after this and make them play the part they should and support the team and the fans who want to know what is happening with them!
Heather, who was not a hockey fan until she saw her first game in 1997, has worked tirelessly to support this franchise. She's kept a close eye on the support and non-support from all media and government outlets. She was pleased when the NY Senators supported the NHL's fight to relocate the franchise to within striking distance of the Buffalo Sabres. She's very happy tonight.
The Phoenix Coyotes can be a proud franchise, it will just take work and money. But the NHL is willing to work on that, and so is the city of Glendale.
During the past few weeks, I had heard reporters say that when the Coyotes first played in Phoenix, before the new arena, they would have no problems attracting fans. It was mentioned that maybe the distance the Glendale complex is from Phoenix could be one of the deterrents. So I asked about the distance from the city.
Westgate, where Arena is located, is very nice. There are shops and restaurants and more is planned for the area. When the arena first opened it was literally in the middle of a dirt field. I parked my truck in what is probably Margaritaville now! There are things to do out in the area now, not just going to see a hockey game, football game or any concert that may be at either the arena or stadium.
And as far as how “far” it is from the people who want to watch hockey, that is the case in ANY metropolitan area. The people in LA have to travel through lots of traffic to get to games, and sometimes come much farther than fans here in Phoenix have to. Chicago, LA, Boston, Toronto etc… they all have the same problem but you don’t hear people complaining about it like they do here. I’m not sure why it is such an issue for fans here, especially when they drive everywhere for everything. We have no real public transportation, people love their cars!
Regarding the bankruptcy issue and what the fans can do to help the club, Heather has her own ideas about how it played out and what they will do.

With the bankruptcy, the media has been using terms inconsistently and it is confusing people. The Coyotes organization (Don Maloney on the hockey side and Doug Moss on the business side) had no idea that the bankruptcy was coming. Jerry Moyes, the majority owner, did that himself all of a sudden on May 5th. The Coyotes didn’t know anything about it until it was done, much like Commissioner Bettman.

So they couldn’t ask for our help or support before it, and since then they haven’t been able to ask for help/support because they are the assets that are being fought over in court! They can’t take sides, they have to stay neutral until decisions are made about who they are controlled by/owned by.

We want to be supporting them, but it isn’t something they can let us do right now. As soon as they can, we will do something together to rally the fans and get some tickets sold!!!
Well, now the fans have something to start rallying around. Their team cannot be moved at this point and there will be hockey in Glendale come October. Who will be financially responsible for the team is still uncertain, but at least the fans can take solace in the fact that they won't have to get a passport to see them.

2 comments: said...

Good article. Personally I think hockey in the desert will always be a losing proposition regardless of the product on the ice but I am glad to see the other side of the equation and what the Coyotes mean to their fans.

Matt said...

Very good article. As a Kings fan, I'm glad that I'll be able to make that road trip to the desert to see a couple of games-- its always fun out there.

A quick comment on something that Heather said... the two of you were talking about the distance to arena. I think part of the problems is that people in the EAST valley have been bitching about the location of the arena since BEFORE it was built. There was talk that the new home of the Coyoties would be in the East Valley (Tempe/Scottsdale, etc), but the Westgate area (Glendale) won out. Ever since, it seems like there has been a segment of the population unwilling to make the 30-40 minute drive.....

Keep up the good work... and congrats to the SaveTheCoyotes peeps.... :-)