Last night in a hotly contested, notably confused, and rancorous debate the Glendale city council voted to approve the RSE deal. The Coyotes will be staying in Glendale for five years or more. The NHL retains the 12th largest media market in America. The hockey media at large looses a side show storyline, the Glendale saga of rotating suitors, Goldman agitation, and players (UFA’s and others) being unwilling to go to a team that might fold or be uprooted at a moments notice.
What it means for
With the ownership group being led by someone who made their name in marketing, these owners will likely open their team, and possibly the league as a whole to better advertising campaigns. More importantly a large market with a stable owner can only be projected to bring more and more eyes, ears and wallets to consume advertisements.
A blight on the NHL is on its way to being a historical footnote. With markets like Seattle and Quebec slavering for franchises of their own, expansion is something only slightly less certain than death and taxes. Two new franchises in “traditional hockey markets” (or elsewhere) would bring the NHL to a number on par with the National Football League that North American banner carrier for sports success. Adding any additional teams would give the league a number of franchises unsurpassed on the continent. A thirty four or thirty six team league will almost certainly draw in more of the top end talent in Europe and Asia. With that many more teams, the Premier series could even have games played in places like Seoul, Rio, Mexico City, Sydney, Johannesburg, and Tokyo as well as the standard European destinations.
With the Arizona stabilized for the coming years, the hockey tradition that has grown in Arizona since the Road Runners landed there can continue on unthreatened. Texas and California have produced first round draft picks, might we see Arizona produce a first overall selection in some future NHL draft? Will the USHL bring its expansion into the territory of the Arizona Coyotes? The rapidly expanding Western States Hockey League (WSHL) already has two teams in the state, what sort of expansion might they see?
In the long run, we don’t know what will happen to any hockey franchise. Montreal, Hartford, Seattle, Quebec City, and Ottawa are all failed hockey cities in what are called traditional hockey markets. Traditions do take time to grow, and they take a steady hand to bring it along. Arizona has had their NHL team for less than a generation, I’m not sure at what point, if any, there has been a leader for the franchise whose vision and purpose was to make hockey work. With this deal, I think they have it, and we have five years to see what growth can be made. To their advantage, they’ve seen all the mistakes that can be made, they’ve seen the results of systemic incompetence as well. Today they have a general manager and head coach who have worked wonders on a shoe string budget. Few franchises are lucky enough to have both a general manager and coach who can do so much with so little. With a bit more resources, and one voice guiding the ship, what might they do? Will Doan, Ekman-Larsson, Yandle, and Smith hoist the Cup under the hot Arizona sun?