The NHL Should Never Have Placed A Team In Phoenix


The Phoenix arena had a bad design for hockey.

When historians write about the story of the National Hockey League’s Phoenix or Arizona Coyotes franchise, they will write about how the sale of the Winnipeg Jets franchise to Richard Burke and Steven Gluckstern and the subsequent move to Phoenix that should have been aborted. Phoenix became a terrible NHL market when Phoenix elected officials on the advice of city lawyers approved the construction of a publicly funded arena that was built to basketball specifications in the late 1980s. That was done to appease the National Basketball Association’s Phoenix Suns’ franchise boss Jerry Colangelo but it would also lead to a big problem. A good many of the arena’s seats were unusable for hockey because the seats in one end of the arena were pitched so that patrons could not see the goal. It was Colangelo who convinced NHL owners to move to Phoenix in 1996. It didn’t matter who owned the hockey team. The business could not function financially with 4,000 unusable seats.

The franchise was sold and new owners began looking to build an arena somewhere within the market. The owners kicked the tires in Scottsdale and ended up in Glendale, which is west of Phoenix. There was a thought that Glendale would become a sports destination center as the National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals franchise moved into Glendale stadium and another Glendale stadium became the spring training home of Major League Baseball’s Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. It never worked for the hockey owners and there were a number of them who had financial woes. The franchise was headed to Hamilton, Ontario or Portland, Oregon but remained in Glendale. The business was literally kicked out of the Glendale arena in 2022. Could an NHL team work in Phoenix? Probably but a reckless arena design decision by Phoenix politicians in the late 1980s is where the Coyotes’ story starts.

The planned Phoenix arena.

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