Does Hockey Work in Arizona?

Since this is my first post here on Inside Hockey, I wanted to use these words to get a fact straight about some Shoaltsian Fallacies (coined term based on the Globe and Mail ‘writer’ David Shoalts) that have made their way to the mainstream over the years. Because the way the media market works here, many of the people outside the state of Arizona do not get a good glimpse into the goings on with the Phoenix Coyotes and how hockey works in Arizona.

So here it goes….Does Hockey work in Arizona?

Yes, it does. Most of the time, when people state that hockey works or does not work in Arizona they are aiming this phrase solely at the Phoenix Coyotes, which is incorrect. This statement has to include the current state of Hockey not only in Phoenix but in Arizona as well.

What some of the people take for granted as deeply embedded traditions in your lives (especially in Canada), the people of Arizona are just starting grow roots. From the foundations and traditions of Hockey from youth up to the NHL levels hockey is slowly moving towards becoming a bonified tradition in Arizona. In addition, the moment the Coyotes moved to Phoenix in 1996 through today, Arizona is just now starting to produce bonified professional level talent.

Over the course of the Coyotes ownership saga this past year, the National Hockey League (NHL) made sure the public knew that hockey as a tradition is working in Arizona. In my opinion, the desire to grow the game of Hockey in Arizona (outside of the Coyotes) is one of the underlying reasons why the NHL wants to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix.

As for the history of the Phoenix Coyotes in Arizona….I could probably write a ten volume collection of books that would cover the history of the franchise including the problems and challenges it faced over the years. However, in the interest of space and time (as well as preventing my article from turning into the literary version of Charlie Brown’s teacher) I will just say this:

The pre-Don Maloney Phoenix Coyotes were mismanaged top to bottom for a good seven to eight years. This resulted in a subpar product on the ice. People who had no business running or managing an NHL team ran the Coyotes into the ground.  As a result, attendance suffered greatly and instead of building a winning tradition of hockey in the valley, a losing tradition was built.

There were tons of fans here when the Coyotes first moved to town in 1996 and there still are tons of fans here today. However, years of losing and not having a good solid owner who knows how to win has kept the fans and advertisers away.

That all has changed over the past three or so years, as Coyotes fans are starting to come back to games. In addition, the recent hiring of talented hockey front office people who are focused on building a winning tradition is also another sign that winning is the Coyotes focus now. All the Coyotes need now is an owner who has the desire to build a winning tradition.

So let me ask this again. Does hockey work in Arizona? You bet it does.


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2 Responses to “Does Hockey Work in Arizona?”

  1. Mike Robbins
    December 10, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    Did you look at attendance numbers before you wrote this article?

    The team is doing well this season and still no one goes. And the attendance numbers are greatly exaggerated. I go to most home games here and there might be 5k a night. It looks like a pre-season tilt almost every night.

  2. Timothy Gassen
    December 10, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    I’ve written a good deal about this for InsideHockey over the past couple of years — check out the archive here. As an Arizona native I will point out again and again that the potential of the Phoenix market is absolutely too massive to ignore. But it IS an unique market, and one which has not yet been captured.

    I’ll talk about this a bit on Saturday’s Coyotes pre-game TV show in a segment for the WHA Hall of Fame. Remember, major league hockey in Phoenix goes all the way back to the 1970s and the WHA!

    PS: a big shout out to my University of Arizona (college team) Icecats. They’ll play in Tucson tonight in front of 7,000 fans vs their archrivals from Arizona State. Anyone who has heard the passionate roar of the Arizona fans at that game would laugh at the idea that hockey isn’t loved here by many.