By now most hockey fans have read the news developing down in Glendale, Arizona. The city is no longer interested in hosting the hometown Coyotes in their city funded arena. This isn’t much of surprise since the two parties have been battling for almost a decade. The situation down in Arizona is a stark difference to what’s happening here in Las Vegas.
Both the Coyotes and the NHL are one hundred percent committed to staying here, and even if our specific arena plans beyond the 2021-2022 season are not yet confirmed, I want to be very clear to you that our future is here in Arizona.- Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez
A True Expansion Team
When the Arizona Coyotes were originally formed the franchise was someone else’s leftovers. An already established club with players that made the move from dreary old Winnipeg to bright and sunny Phoenix. There was excitement in Arizona but not in the same way fans felt here in Vegas. Coyote fans were forced to cheer on a team that had finished 5th the prior year, all while the Cardinals and Suns were kicking off their seasons. It was difficult for the new addition to break through and gain the same momentum the Golden Knights did in 2017.
Also Vegas didn’t have to compete with an NFL or NBA team allowing Golden Knights fans to solely focus their attention fall on a newly formed unit called The Misfits. Both parties came together to form the greatest season in expansion history. Not sure the Cup run fairy tale would’ve happened if Las Vegas had inherited a defunct franchise’s roster.
Hidden Star Power
When the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft roster was announced it was the Vegas Golden Knights front and center. The 31st franchise didn’t have to share headlines with other incoming teams like the generation of expansion teams that came before them. Since the attention was fully on Sin City, fans only needed to focus on the player’s owner Bill Foley and GM George McPhee drafted. James Neal, David Perron and of course Marc-Andre Fleury were established names in the league but it was the unknown players that fans drew to as well. William Karlsson quickly became a star in Las Vegas after wasting away in Columbus. Same went for other Misfits. Alex Tuch, Jonathan Marchessault and even Deryk Engelland became marquees on Las Vegas Boulevard.
The roster changed slightly before the Coyotes kicked off their inaugural season featuring young captain Keith Tkachuk, future Hall of Famer Shane Doan and goaltender (the Bulin Wall) Nikolai Khabibulin. Unfortunately for Coyotes fans, stars like Teemu Selanne were sold off before the move.
Winning Of Course
The Coyotes have been operating for 24 seasons and have yet to make an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. The desert dogs once reached the Western Conference Final in 2012 but flamed out to eventual Cup winner LA Kings. In four seasons Vegas has matched and exceeded Arizona’s accomplishments. The Golden Knights have proven that hockey can “work in the desert” by winning hockey games. Plain and simple, the Coyotes haven’t done that consistently enough over their history.
In contrast, the Coyotes own the worst franchise win percentage (.479) in the NHL and the Golden Knights for now, have the best (.636) in league history. Of course the numbers favor the much youngest organization but Arizona has had plenty of seasons to climb out of the gutter. A successful club breeds confidence and a dedicated fanbase. Vegas developed that in only four years.
Becoming A Destination
Victories lead to playoff appearances, trophies and the pick of the free agent litter. The Coyotes started off strong making the playoffs in five of their first six seasons but have qualified for postseason only four times since then. The Golden Knights accomplishments and winning attitude allowed the front office to convince Alex Pietrangelo, Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone and Alec Martinez to long term agreements either through free agency or trade extensions. Arizona has been unable to sign that many quality players in over 20 years of existence. The Phoenix area might be a desirable location to play hockey but if the team isn’t successful, high end talent will look to play elsewhere, like in Las Vegas. That’s been the case for the Coyotes.
Say No To Public Funding
Lastly, and this is a big reason why Arizona and Vegas don’t share the same problems. The Coyotes organization have been desperately campaigning for public financing to build a state of the art arena. That can come across as greedy and too risky for certain taxpayers. We see it in our own backyard as some Vegas residents despise that the city funded Allegiant Stadium. Golden Knights fans won’t have to worry about any nasty public negotiations as T-Mobile Arena was built with private money.
The future in Arizona is up in the air, but it won’t matter. The Coyotes will never own a market like the Golden Knights do, even if they were as committed to winning. After four straight successful seasons and one amazing run to the Cup Finals, Vegas fans and players have quickly bonded. That connection from the inaugural season will never get lost, even down the road after a few losing seasons. If they stay put or move, the Coyotes proved hockey may not work in all desert cities, but it sure works in Las Vegas.
Loved the story, so true about hockey in the desert
IT WORKS RIGHT HERE IN VEGAS!
Well done article. Spot on correct! PHX resident here and I see no will to use the people’s money to build an arena for the bland, boring, undistinguished Coyotes. In the response and results the VGK and Coyotes are opposites. Good riddance Yotes. I will help them pack to move to Houston.
Agree 100%. We all love this team, it’s all we have and they kicked ass from day one. What’s not to like ? Changes have happened, but winning hockey games can cure hurt feelings. I just adopted a beautiful rescue dog, I named him Fleury, that says it all !!
Not building the Coyotes rink in Scottsdale was their downfall. Many more hockey fans in the East Valley. Glendale, 30 miles away, is perceived as the hood, sorry to say.
The biggest issue for the Coyotes attendance woes is that they play in an arena that is more than an hour’s drive each way (in traffic) from a decent chunk of the city. I’m sure Gila River is great if you live in Glendale, but if you live in Scottsdale or Tempe or Gilbert or even most of Phoenix proper, you’re not apt to go to more than a game or two a year if that. If they had a decent arena in the downtown area (like Vegas, for better or worse — not what we call downtown but certainly centrally located) they’d do a lot better
Like always it’s all about the money. Foley is a great owner with deep pockets that goes first class all time. We are fortunate to have such an owner.
Not sure an apples to oranges comparison between the two teams. VGK have been rock solid for a short existence in a city starved for pro sports. At some point vegas will go thru a dry spell, as all teams do. After several years of that is when the comparison will be closer. I still think Vegas will be ok because even if the VGK fandom drops, and the team stinks for a while, other team fans will go to the game when in town. It is the perfect market for that. “Hey, let’s go to vegas and party for a few days and catch a predators game cause they are playing there that week.”
That’s the value of Vegas and sports. Same with the Raiders. Some teams fans travel well and its Vegas. Let’s go.
Just my 2 cents about the article. I think VGK have a great fan base, but its when teams aren’t winning that loyalty, less than sold out arenas, finances, arena licenses etc come into question. But I still think Vegas has a good thing regardless of down years.
@Brian S – interesting take on the Coyote’s location. I know very little about phx, so that makes sense. I like the Coyotes. I hope they work it all out.
THE hockey GOD
It’ll be a problem when the useful life of existing venue expires and no one wants to pay for a new venue.
Also, I rate this venue behind STaples center, rogers center, Belle center, MSG, new red wing facility. It’s a tad better than Honda Center. I don’t like the fact that everyone has to exit and entrance on same side, or some of the traffic jams getting into the parking garage although the traffic cops seem to keep the traffic flowing.
NHL should just move them to Houston or to Quebec. Canada deserves to have a team in Quebec. Better than Moose Jaw, Dawson City, Yellowknife, Oak Island, Windsor or Hamilton. Can anyone say Mystery Alaska ? You know ? Juneau !
Wait until the VGK start losing. Vegas is a fair weather city.
You have no proof of your comment especially since hockey has only been there 4 years. But let’s say you are right, VGK will still draw a crowd simply b/c it is Vegas and fans from other teams will still come to the town and watch a game. Others visiting Vegas will also check out a game just because
Andrew C Bonaventura
Wayne Gretzky is one of the main reasons this franchise is so screwed up.they were a consistent playoff team when they played in downtown phoenix.the move to Glendale was a huge mistake .your fanbase was in the east valley but team moved to the west valley chasing new arena. I would have rather had expansion team as well but Colorado was not an expansion team and it worked there and it worked in Dallas as well .so blame the great one and bad ownership and bad decision making for the coyotes problems
Good article but I wish we’d stop with this revisionist history and look at the actual history of this great game and the NHL.
The St Louis Blues have had the “greatest expansion team in history”,, technically speaking.
In their expansion year they went to the Cup finals, and did so again the next two years.
Like VGK, they had the benefit of playing in a weaker division/conference. This is taking absolutely nothing away from VGK’s fantastic accomplishment, but let’s take a broader look at the actual history of the league before throwing out superlatives.
If you want to get it straight then get it straight. St, Louis and ALL the expansion teams played in one division so naturally one would have to go to the Stanley Cup finals. In the Vegas Knights expansion season there was one expansion team and 15 established teams. The comparison people make to the two expansion teams is stupid it’s not even close. Work your way through established teams to the Cup finals or work your way through other expansion teams to the Cup finals. Lets put that comparison to bed once and for all.
I get it, but the point is all 6 teams in the West were pretty even, and like the VGK they worked their way through the weakest grouping (division for VGK, conference for STL) to get to the finals. In fact the Blues were 3rd in their division their first year.
They improved the next two years to win their division and make it to the Cup finals twice more.
Kind of like you can’t compare scoring records with 32 teams and 82 games now instead of less and less, you can’t really compare exact records here either.
Look at the Pacific and West divisions and it’s easy to see why VGK has been dominant, thank goodness. But look at STL’s early situation with Scotty Bowman and you have to give credit where it’s due.
Also calling Vegas “Entertainment Capital of the World” – of which it’s undoubtedly a top one – when LA has laid claim to that for longer? Leads to other platitudes on this normally excellently-written site where we see predictions that VGK will dominate Montreal in the playoffs. And we know what happened there.
It’s easy to underestimate other teams when the blinders are on.
There’s been some good acknowledgement of the 100-year history of the NHL on this site, but sometimes you forget that when the glow is on.
DOC (Go Knights Go)
I’ve been very busy so haven’t been on here. But, seeing how its kind of slow on here, I thought I would show up quick, to give you, if so desired, someone to take shots at, which I know you like to do.
I’m only around here a week and a half yet. So better get your shit in on me while you can!!! 😉
knights fan in minny
grow up fool
DOC (Go Knights Go)
Knew I’d pull in somebody. Hooked me a Minny the moocher! ha ha
knights fan in minny
your stupid humor wont be missed
knights fan in minny
did you see your hero blunder joe walk away from the podium today and not answer questions about the disaster he has created he wont answer questions because he knows his dementia will show his wife should be ashamed of herself for letting the democraps prop him up when she knows he is not all there
knights fan in minny
hurry up and go clown boy
I’m a big fan of this team and I enjoy reading articles like this one. Go Knights Go!