Go Jets Go

I was really hoping that by now we would know definitively whether or not the NHL would be returning to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been discussing the potential for a return of NHL-caliber hockey to Winnipeg. Providing the most important facts regarding our local ownership group and the issues facing the Phoenix Coyotes and Atlanta Thrashers, I can only hope I’ve convinced casual readers and naysayers that Winnipeg could and should be a much more successful hockey market than either Atlanta or Phoenix.

As with the details regarding the theoretical deal between Glendale and would-be owner Matt Hulsizer, you can’t help being dumbfounded at just how committed the NHL has become to keeping struggling sun-belt franchises, like the Coyotes, in their current markets.

With the deal seemingly stuck in suspended animation — always two weeks from being completed — it’s starting to feel like the only thing more pathetic than the abysmal attendance is the NHL’s desperate attempt to save these failed markets. It’s long past time to pull the plug on the Coyotes franchise and move them back up to Canada.

What makes the fiasco in Arizona particularly frustrating for myself and other Winnipeg hockey fans is that the effort to save the Coyotes appears to be aimed at covering financial losses first and foremost. On the surface, the Coyotes appear to lack any meaningful connection to the community and have not created a thriving hockey culture in the desert after 15 years. Unlike in Canada, where a professional hockey team is a common rallying point for civic pride and a big part of our national culture, in the southern states hockey is just a distraction.

This glaring lack of civil support is apparently moot, simply because the city of Glendale cannot accept that their attempt to re-brand itself as a sports Mecca has failed. They gambled with taxpayer money, building a state-of-art arena for a franchise with a history of shoddy ownership, with average annual losses of $25 million. Furthermore, the arena also fails to attract big name concerts and other events who tend to choose to play at the US Airways Arena in downtown Phoenix, instead of the one tucked away in the Glendale suburbs.

On top of the struggling hockey team, the looming NFL lockout threatens to hit the recession-ravaged city of Glendale with another huge economic blow. If the Westgate development relies solely on sports events to draw in customers, could it possibly survive with no professional hockey and no professional football in 2011?

This is essentially why the Glendale city councillors are so desperate to save the Coyotes at any cost and why the ongoing efforts to save the Coyotes have dragged out well past all logical deadlines. It appears that any genuine resolution to the Coyotes saga will happen once the Coyotes are eliminated from the playoffs. Heading into their second straight playoff run, it’s entirely possible that this year’s squad could pull off the deepest playoff run in the franchise’s history, which will leave Winnipeg fans waiting all the longer.

On the Atlanta front, nothing has been resolved either. There has been some tire-kicking by prospective owners who intend to keep the team in Atlanta, but no bona-fide offers have been reported. The Thrashers are not playoff-bound, so there’s a chance that a relocation announcement could come at the end of the regular season — likely a move to Manitoba, but as long as Winnipeg is being used as leverage in Phoenix, we’re going to have to wait for the gong show in Glendale to wrap up.

17 Comments on "Go Jets Go"

  1. you have some good facts in your story but i just want to point out that the arena DOES attract big names…U2, tom petty, to name a few. but the problem is the size. midrange acts do not use it. so it then competes with usair center for the handful of big tours going around. and they compete with the outdoor concert venues. so really only big summer tours is what glendale gets. and there are not tons of those.

  2. Michael mykichuk | April 5, 2011 at 10:51 pm |

    The latest I heard is that Atlanta arena personel have been in Winnipeg checking out how things are being carried out at the MTS Centre. The personel from the MTS centre who look after the exectutive boxes have also been down to Atlanta to see if there is any insight they can bring back related to a professional team. This is the first I heard, as I have been following the Phoenix story closer.

  3. if winnipeg was such a good hockey town as everyone keeps saying, the Coyotes would never have moved away!

  4. You should do some research on your subject matter before you right stories pandering to your audience. Hockey has been huge in Phoenix. Since the Coyotes have arrived every high school has a hockey team. there are countless youth leagues and men’s leagues, five hockey rinks have been built and I could go on. I will agree that the majority of Phoenix does not live and die by what the Coyotes are doing, however the Valley has over 4 million people and quite honestly for those of us who like the Yotes we are quite happy that not everyone flocks to the game. With a quality team and a good owner hockey will thrive in the desert. This team has been ignored by past ownership groups and quite honestly the product that hit the ice was lackluster at best (the past two seasons not included). Just watch what will happen when Hulsizer takes over and we finally have a hockey person running a hockey team. We are already well on our way to taking the cup this year……see you all at the finals!

  5. Hey GP, when the Jets left Winnipeg the dollar was worth 60 cents ,we had no rink and our owner couldn’t afford to keep the team. Now we have a rink, the Canadian dollar is worth more than the American dollar, and we have owners that can afford to buy the whole bloody league if they wanted .RW, every high school in Phoenix has a hockey team, maybe the Coyotes should join a high school league because high school sports gets more publicity than the Coyotes do.Sorry, hockey is dead in the desert.

  6. Hey GP, when the Jets left Winnipeg the dollar was worth 60 cents ,we had no rink and our owner couldn’t afford to keep the team. Now we have a rink, the Canadian dollar is worth more than the American dollar, and we have owners that can afford to buy the whole bloody league if they wanted .RW, every high school in Phoenix has a hockey team, maybe the Coyotes should join a high school league because high school sports gets more publicity than the Coyotes do.Sorry, hockey is dead in the desert.

  7. And hey gp. You should see what we did for the “save the jets” campaign. Thousands upon thousands of people showed up. We raised tonnes of money and our mayor cried when she announced they were leaving. How many people showed up at the glendale city council meeting last year it was public…… No one was there…. I watched it. We sell more of our moose ahl tickets then youre average yotes game. I am sorry to say hockey IS dead in the desert. I just cant wait to see the madness that awaits for the hot ticket of the first regular season 2011-2012 jets game.

  8. to rw – You should pass your grade 4 spelling lessons before “writing” in to complain about others not doing their research. On the positive side you could get a job as a legal secretary for Matthew Hulsizer. The team has NEVER made a profit in 14 years in Glendale. It has nothing to do with a quality team or solid ownership. It is a bad business that bleeds money and ends up hurting the entire league. I applaud you for being a Coyotes fan but it is time to accept reality. No new owner will resurrect the Coyotes. If they could they would step up and buy the team with their own money.

  9. @rw : so those of you that like the yotes are quite happy NOT everyone flocks to the games.

    That about sums up why Phoenix doesn’t deserve a team quite nicely. Thanks.

  10. Hey RW… If you think for a moment that Matt Hulsizer is a hockey guy…. your wrong. Matt Hulsizer is a money guy, pure and simple. If he can’t make a buck he will be gone. Which likely explains why Glendale has to give Matt the money to buy the Yotes…. The team will be bankrupt or sold within 2 years of Matt taking over….

    Matthew Hulsizer is a co-founder of PEAK6 Investments, L.P.

    Mr. Hulsizer serves as one of two managing members of PEAK6, LLC, which is the general partner of PEAK6 Investments, L.P. From May 1994 until he co-founded PEAK6 in 1997, he was a director and risk manager for Swiss Bank, a global financial-services corporation that merged with Union Bank of Switzerland to become UBS AG. From 1991 to December 1993, Mr. Hulsizer worked as a senior trader with O’Connor & Associates, a proprietary derivatives trading firm that was acquired by Swiss Bank and subsequently integrated into Swiss Bank Capital Markets.

    Mr. Hulsizer is a 1991 graduate of Amherst College. He also served as a board member of New Jersey’s Peddie School and Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

  11. ab-original | April 6, 2011 at 10:18 pm |

    It will not be Phoenix it will be Atlanta, the team will not be called the Winnipeg Jets. This will announced May 1st. You will hear more news as soon as the regular season ends.

  12. Lets see, a potential owner with no money,wants to buy a hockey team in the desert with no fans. Now on the flip side there is a potential multi billionaire who wants to buy this team with his own money, move it to Winnipeg where he has his own arena and a strong season ticket base and the NHL is hesitating ? Like wow, no wonder the U.S. is in financial trouble.

  13. Hey gp you should really stop talking its just not smart rwr you get but unfortunatlly we shoulkd be focusing on the thrashers that is the team we will have not the coyottes trust me that is a good thing lots of young tallent just ready to develop perfect the word on the street is they are raising the roof at the mts center why figure it out the thrashers will play in Winnipeg next season for sure. forget about the coyotees there old news.

  14. Same reports I have heard here in Regina. Atlanta will probably be playing in Winnipeg for the 2011-2012 season. Local sports media has mentioned on several occasions that it will be Atlanta to Winnipeg, not Phoenix.

  15. I would love to have NHL hockey back in the ‘peg. The Moose are a great team in the AHL, but it’s not the same. The Moose can win the AHL this year, they have a better chance than Phx going to the 2ed round.
    As for which team that comes to Wpg, I would rather have Atl, they have more marketable players, (Phx Belanger would be run out of town for his past comments about Wpg), plus think of the instant rivalry we would have with phx!

  16. nintendoneil | April 19, 2011 at 6:36 am |

    go wings!

    and bring hockey back to where it belongs…phoenix can keep its baseball or basketball, or cactus humping…or whatever else they would rather watch..

  17. The comment above about all the youth hockey leagues that have formed in Phoenix in the past decade or so (which probably wouldn’t have happened w/o the Coyotes in Phoenix) is an important one. The responses to it just shows the ignorance of some people. The NHL sees the long-term windfall of the Phoenix market. They understand that the next generation of Coyotes fans are being cultivated right now. Unfortunately, they are too young to buy tickets yet. Those that ARE old enough have a high % of transplants that still support the teams where they come from. Phoenix won’t have a high % of transplants forever. It was also mentioned that the team ownership has been pretty lousy for the entire 15 year stay in Phoenix. With an ownership committed to staying, winning, and cultivating a fan base, I have no doubt the team can do well here. Unfortunately, the location of the arena on the west side of town is a substantial obstacle to overcome (the arena should have been built in/near downtown or in Scottsdale, but various issues prevented that from happening at the time), but I think it CAN be overcome. People just state their opinions on here without really understanding the “big picture” or are Canadians just expressing their hatred of the USA taking over “their” sport and want another team in Canada.

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