The clock is ticking on the Arizona Coyotes

It appears the sands of time are running out on the Arizona Coyotes. The desert sand that is, as the NHL franchise may soon be saying adios to the city of Glendale and the state of Arizona. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has tried to keep the team in Arizona for about a decade now, but even he admits it may be time to relocate. Bettman and the Coyotes want a new arena in Phoenix for the club to play in, but they want taxpayers to fund it. Without a new rink, they’re threatening to leave the city.

The Coyotes currently play in Glendale, which is a city of about a quarter of a million people and approximately 10 miles from Phoenix. The NBA’s Suns currently play in Phoenix and the NFL’s Cardinals play in Glendale and neither team seems to have a problem drawing fans. However, the Coyotes are having a hard time convincing people to drive the half hour from Phoenix to Gila River Arena to see them play.

The rink is relatively new as it opened in 2003 and holds 17,125 fans for hockey. The current lease between the NHL team and the arena allows the club to leave after the 2017/18 season and it appears it may exercise that option. Fans living in Phoenix can’t just walk to the rink like they do in Toronto, Montreal and New York City, etc, and there isn’t a very good transit system in place to take them there. Of course not all Coyotes fans live in Phoenix though, meaning out-of-towners have a longer drive to attend games and moving the club to Phoenix won’t solve this.

Bettman has said the franchise won’t stay in Glendale and is hoping for a satisfactory outcome to the situation via Senate Bill 1149. This bill would provide the Coyotes with $225 million of public money for a new rink in Phoenix or the East Valley area. Of course, the local government doesn’t see the need to build a new arena just 12 miles away from a rink that’s just 14 years old in Glendale. The NHL says the Coyotes are losing tons of money each year playing in Glendale, but politicians blame that on the fact the team has made the playoffs just three times in the past 11 years.

The Coyotes used to play in Phoenix for just over seven years and attracted fewer fans than they did when they first moved to Glendale though, so taxpayers don’t see what will change if the team moves back to Phoenix. The local government used to provide the Coyotes with $15 million a year in an arena-management agreement, but that ended in 2015 and it seems the franchise misses that cash injection. The Suns NBA team doesn’t want to share a rink with the NHL team though, so Bettman may have no choice but to pull the Coyotes out of Arizona.

It’s doubtful taxpayers will be asked by the government to fork over money for another arena in the area, so unless somebody has a change of heart or comes up with another solution it could be lights out for the Coyotes. Of course, the NHL shouldn’t have a problem finding another city to relocate to as Seattle, Portland and Quebec are all reportedly interested in a franchise, whether it’s an existing one or an expansion team.